Social media has been dealt a massive ‘dislike’ recently.

You'd need a thick skin to be unmoved by the tale of Baby Easton's hardship. Pic: facebook.com/SupportBabyEastonFriedel

Twitter is currently the platform in the spotlight, with several public figures recently abused online. Facebook has also come under scrutiny in the past, for hacked tribute pages and cyber bullying, as well as all that time wasting.

If the media frenzy is to be believed, social media is the new axis of evil. But, of course, it’s not.

An avid user of both platforms, I relish the ability to keep in touch with friends old and new, while making connections across the globe that would otherwise be impossible.

I’ll admit I was sceptical at first. I only joined Facebook to keep tabs on my far more social siblings’ lives in London. Then old friends looked me up and it quickly became a good way of catching up without actually catching up. Social schmoozing for lazy people. Perfect.

Twitter took a lot more convincing. On the surface it’s an arena for telling people what you’re currently eating, or harassing celebrities in the hope they’ll acknowledge your existence. And there are people who only ever do that.

But there are also people who use it to communicate, to teach and to learn. To give their short, sharp witticisms, or observations, or commentaries on life, to the world. Spend enough time and you will begin to build networks. You will learn new information, and of opportunities that might normally pass you by.

Used right, or at least not misused, social media is a place of possibility. Nowhere am I more convinced of this than with the story of Easton Friedel, a baby boy who has suffered more, and fought harder, in the 18 days he has been on this earth than most of us have in our entire lives.

Born in the United States with an extremely rare skin condition called Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB), it was obvious he was in strife from the outset. This rare skin disease causes the skin to be so fragile that the slightest friction, minor injury, heat, rubbing, or scratching causes severe blistering—both inside and outside the body.

My cousin, who has links to the family, posted a story about little Easton on Facebook, complete with a photo.

We’ve all seen these delivery suite photos. Some of us have taken them. Some have had these images thrust upon them on Facebook by obliviously happy new parents. Cue eye-rolling and skipping to the next post.

There was no skipping here. This beautiful boy had lost almost all the skin on his legs, as well as his arms and hands. Just looking at the picture was painful.

I clicked through the link to find out more. It soon became clear he was in for a fight. But not just him, his family too.

His parents, Jared and Danielle, have three other boys. They are a young family. Jared’s job is potentially in trouble. And Easton was going to need an awful lot of support, especially financial, in order to fight on. Bandages alone could cost $10,000 a month.

A fund for donations was set up. They hoped to raise $5,000. Thanks to social media, this is currently at $125,000 and climbing.

Family and friends continue the updates of Easton’s progress on Facebook. Every day a new alert pops up and is immediately ‘liked’ by hundreds of supportive followers, as well as providing a place to add messages of hope and love and prayer.

Many of us do not know this family, yet we have become intrinsically linked to them and their little boy, who continues his brave fight when most adults would have given up long ago.

There was a throwaway line in one such post, detailing how Danielle left the hospital to look after her other three boys, leaving Jared alone in the hospital with Easton.

I can only imagine what thoughts must have been going through his head. How many tears were shed over his son, for whom he could do so little. And yet still he was his father, no matter how hard it was at that moment to be so. He watched over and comforted him and dutifully changed his bandages (a delicate and time-consuming task that can take hours).

He didn’t know it, but likely all across the world there were fathers like me standing with him. That guy is my hero. I have never met him, I will probably never meet him, but I can honestly say that any time things get difficult in my life I will think to that moment. And I will know what being a father truly is. And I will take strength from that.

This family has touched my life, and countless others, thanks to social media. And thanks to social media, they have received emotional and financial support that will aid Easton’s fight for life.

While often misused in ways that have us reaching for the ‘Log Out’ button, little Easton has taught me that doing so would ensure stories like his are lost in the ether. And if he can fight through his suffering, we can certainly put up with the worst parts of social media for the greater good.

Easton Friedel is currently based at the Cinncinati Children’s hospital. Find out more about this amazing boy and his family, including how to donate to his cause, here

Comments on this post close at 8pm AEST

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10 comments

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    • TChong says:

      11:17am | 13/09/12

      Geez , Robbie made an A grade, foot - in - mouth, hypocritical clown of himself with this one.
      His stupidity, and poor memory ( oh ! that tweet about a noose ? forgot all about it ! ) , then appealing to the very person he trolled ( JG) , to assist him , should see him back to reserve grade - until he can show he can think.
      ( And I’m a proud One Eyed Tigers Fan.)

    • Joan Bennett says:

      08:21am | 13/09/12

      That’s so sad.  I guess it’s no worse than the millions of children born overseas who will slowly starve to death or get a disease that western children will NEVER get.  And why?  Just a pure accident of birth…

      Any twits twittering about that?

    • Fezzbo says:

      12:30pm | 13/09/12

      Joan, do you go and mow your neighbours backyards? Do you volunteer? Do you stop and help every homeless person you come across?

      As a nation, we send millions of dollars overseas in foreign aid. How much foreign aid has been sent to the USA to help this poor little one or others like it? What makes one nation more deserving of our aid than another?

      People are helping people and you jump all over their charity and say “Give more to these ones because it’s no worse than their situation.”

      Twit.

    • Matt Baker says:

      08:39am | 13/09/12

      Nicely done cousin. It is definitely proof of the power of social media. Easton’s story has made it around the globe! I hope you don’t mind me sharing this first. Any publicity for this cruel disease and any of it’s helpless sufferers is just a start. EB has been described as the ‘worst disease’ you have never heard of’ It truly is evil. As a new (ish) parent myself, I couldn’t imagine the pain and anguish for Easton and his parents. I came to know of this story because Jared is a friend of mine. Jared is in my friends list of about 500. I shared it with everyone, it was picked up by about 5 ORIGINAL friends. I’m sure it was the same everywhere. The number of subscribers at last count was 22,000 and climbing. Originally it was believed there were 6 degrees of separation, after a study through facebook, it was believed that the number was closer to 4.5. The fact that an article including Easton’s story has made it around the globe and into ‘print’ 12000 miles away. Social media should be applauded for the good it CAN do but taken with a grain of salt for it’s shortcomings. I hope we all continue to find stories that touch us in some ways and essentially make the world a smaller unified community. Please keep Easton in your prayers and if you can donate a little it will be very appreciated

    • Marci McGetrick says:

      09:16am | 13/09/12

      Thank you <3

    • TChong says:

      10:55am | 13/09/12

      Almost 11am , and no replies?
      I hope its only a “software"problem with responses, and not due to lack of interest from Punchers.
      Back to topic.
      A good news story , when seen from the perspective that all blogging doesnt have to end in rancour and trolling, and some genuine good can be achieved when social networking is put to a worthwhile cause.
      As for the poor little fella- good news that he is recieving such advanced care.
      It does raise the question though…. what would the little fellas fate been, if he wasnt born in a 1st world country?
      Not good ? more than likely.

    • Anthony Sharwood

      Anthony Sharwood says:

      12:05pm | 13/09/12

      Chongy, we have a few problems with our system at the moment, but they are being sorted (we’re told) so apologies to you and others who’ve experienced a bit of frustration thru delays on all posts lately

    • Rose says:

      10:59am | 13/09/12

      Social media is both a blessing and a curse. Unfortunately pictures of sick and injured babies and children appear on my news feed regularly, I would never donate that way. Not because I don’t care, but because how am I to be sure some one didn’t high jack a photo and use some poor kid’s trouble for their own personal and financial gain.
      It’s a pity because no doubt some would be genuine, but as always the crooked minority destroy people’s trust and the majority suffer.

    • c gruevski says:

      12:37pm | 13/09/12

      Great article! Very glad to see social media working for this family. Thoughts and prayers for little Easton.

 

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