The celebrity who's using social media for good

Date

Danielle Binks

'Arrow' actor Stephen Amell - who directs his millions of Facebook followers to worthy causes, while promoting ...

'Arrow' actor Stephen Amell - who directs his millions of Facebook followers to worthy causes, while promoting respectful conduct - could teach his celebrity contemporaries a thing or two about being awesome online.

In 2014 alone, there were enough cringeworthy celebrity social media faux pas to keep tabloids in print. From Bill Cosby tweeting "Go ahead. Meme me!" right when he's been accused of raping 13 women to musician Diplo's sexist campaign to "Get Taylor Swift a booty", social media stupidity among celebs has become inevitable and 'worst social media blunders' now part of the end-of-year media roundup.

But there are those who put the relationship between celebrity and society to good use – "It's nice to have a man worthy of TV-crushitude," was how my friend put it recently, when explaining her obsession with the actor Stephen Amell.

Amell salmon-laddered his way into viewers' hearts playing Oliver Queen/Arrow on the television series Arrow, a DC Comics adaptation that airs on Channel Nine in Australia. But it's less the iconic action-hero that appeals to my friend and many like-minded fans – rather it's the actor behind the mask, who's leading an impressive social media fandom (with over 3 million fans on Facebook) and teaching his celebrity contemporaries a thing or two about directing their online followers to worthy causes and respectful conduct.

Early in 2014, Amell auctioned off Arrow memorabilia for Prayers For Sophie – raising money for a young girl with a rare Optic Pathway Glioma brain tumour. One Green Arrow statue (signed by Amell) was won on eBay with a bid of US $25,300 for Sophie and her family. Amell has said it was thoughts of his own daughter that first got him interested in helping Sophie's cause: "She was right around the same age as my daughter when her initial diagnosis came through. The whole scenario was a lot to wrap my head around."

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Throughout 2014 he was heavily involved in the F*CK CANCER association, using the Represent platform to crowdfund merchandise and raise over one million dollars in profits for the charity. It's another cause close to his heart, since his mum successfully went through treatment for breast cancer in 2012.

Earlier this month, Amell called on his considerable Facebook fandom to help in choosing a charity focus for 2015. "The opportunity to be educated on so many worthwhile causes is simply invaluable. I want to stress that there aren't winners and losers in this scenario. And this certainly isn't my last campaign," he wrote in a Facebook post. There was a hint that one charity he intends to support this year holds similar personal relevance as F*CK CANCER and Prayers for Sophie, when Amell wrote in the same Facebook post about having been a patient at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children in late '84 through early '85.

 

But it's not just Amell's supporting numerous charities that has endeared him to the internet – it's also the genuine respect and admiration he has for his fans, and his insistence that they conduct themselves in a similarly respectful manner when interacting with each another.

Remember, 2014 was the year in which Firefly actor Adam Baldwin coined the Twitter hashtag '#Gamergate' to describe the ongoing harassment of women in video game culture – and he was perversely proud of his involvement in the misogynistic movement. Stephen Amell, by contrast, is so proud of his Facebook family's respect for one another in the increasingly vitriolic online sphere, that he thought to mention it in his end-of-year wrap-up post. "We've established traditions. We've helped cultivate other communities on Facebook and raise awareness for stories and people that deserve attention. We've maintained an incredibly civilized decorum despite exponential expansion. And we've generated an outrageous amount of money for charity."

One theory behind his Facebook fandom's generally positive community atmosphere is that Amell curates the page himself. Arrow is a production of the CW Television Network and their VP of marketing and digital programs, Rick Haskins last year said of Stephen's Facebook page, "He absolutely understands it and embraces it. The other thing that is important is he is serious about it: he understands that that's his way of communicating personally to his fan base. We don't make him do it."

Amell posts images for '#FanArtFriday' – showing off artworks created by Arrow fans – as well as 'Lightsaber Saturday' and '#MemeMonday' (see below). And he wades into the comments section to interact with fans for scheduled Q&As – in his January video message he also announced plans to renovate a room in his trailer from which to record Q&A videos in the New Year.

It's that personable touch that has lead to a level of accountability amongst his fans; they all know that Stephen is watching them, and so conduct themselves in an overwhelmingly deferential manner. "Once again, thank you for making such a huge group of people feel like a small band of sisters and brothers. It's the best," Amell praised his fans in a recent post.

Setting the tone and agenda for his online community is important, as celebrities' cultivation of a robust social media presence is greatly impacting on the film, television and music industries. "These days, a performer's social media footprint is strongly considered when marketers start strategising a film's campaign," wrote Anita Busch for Deadline.

The potential for celebrities to harness their followers for good is enormous – but it's also enough of a double-edged sword that the term "fan armies" has been coined to describe those fans who will take their dedication to a hurtful extreme. Beliebers, Swifties, Directioners, Lady Gaga's Little Monsters and Nicki Minaj's Barbz – these are among some of the most formidable fan armies, and they can be terrifying. "If only the warring political parties could harness such power," quipped Tricia Romano in an article for The Daily Beast.

Stephen Amell's fandom is miniscule compared to some Facebook fan pages (Shakira is currently ranked #1, with over 100 million followers) – and Amell himself doesn't even get a look in when it comes to lists of Most Charitable Celebrities (Elton John has raised over $125 million to date, in support of AIDS programs around the world). But the fact that Stephen Amell is taking the time to monitor his three-million strong fandom is something worth admiring – as is the fact that he does so with intelligent and insightful postings, and by directing support to worthy campaigns. But it's his insistence that his followers conduct their interactions with kindness and respect that should set the benchmark amongst fellow celebrities, those who have incredible follower-influence at their fingertips. After all, we're now living in a world where Katy Perry is the Number One most followed individual on Twitter… and the Dalai Lama the 99th.