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We often hear that modern society is dominated negatively by social media. I’m sure that I’m not the only one who wakes up in the morning and almost immediately checks the home screen of my smartphone for any notifications or messages I might have missed in the night. Years ago, a Facebook group floated around named ‘Waking up and checking your newsfeed like it’s the morning paper’ – I heartily related.
Most of the time when I browse Facebook in the morning, my feed is peppered with pictures of cute animals (not complaining), drunk statuses posted at 1am, people moaning about exams/coursework/partners and the odd Buzzfeed article. It’s very rare that I’ll stumble across something so touching – and most importantly, memorable – as Stephen’s Story.
Stephen Sutton was an inspiring young man with incurable cancer, who decided that with the time he had left, he wanted to do something amazing. He created a Facebook page, on which he outlined a bucket list of 46 things he wanted to do in the near future – one of which including raising money for the Teenage Cancer Trust, who were instrumental in giving Stephen the treatment he has needed to stay alive since age 15. Stephen received the attention of multiple celebrities, notably Jason Manford, who succeeded in furthering his cause by actively posting photos, tweeting and starting a campaign calling ‘Thumbs Up For Stephen’; which began after Stephen suffered a particularly serious relapse and did not expect to live much longer.
As he neared his final days, Stephen wrote about how he wished he could reach one million pounds for the Teenage Cancer Trust. That morning was when I discovered the page and immediately donated; since then I avidly followed Stephen’s progress. Miraculously, Stephen recovered from his severe relapse and wrote about how the doctors believed he had “coughed up” a tumour which had the potential to be fatal and that evening as his story gathered momentum, his fund-raising total breezed past the one million mark.
Stephen continued to do well, but also continued to remind his followers that his cancer was indeed, incurable. Stephen’s Story is not a “sob story”, according to his Facebook page, and it would also have no fairy-tale ending. I was devastated last week when a member of Stephen’s family posted on the page that Stephen had passed away in his sleep, after a four year battle with cancer, on May 14th. I cried a little then and I’ll admit that simply writing about it is making me blurry-eyed.
Stephen’s Story is one of the most astounding uses of social media I have seen in years. We might berate Facebook and Twitter for destroying the way we communicate with others, but Stephen managed to reach out to thousands – maybe even millions – by making a Facebook page and sharing his story. By deciding to utilise social media and talk about his experience, his life and his goals, Stephen immortalised himself and left behind a monumental legacy despite his tragically shortened life. At the time of print, Stephen’s Just Giving page has raised £3,930,908.98 – an astronomical 393 percent of the initial target he set for himself. Stephen might be gone now, but his impact and selfless nature will resound in people for years to come.