We’ve all gotten very familiar with the concept of social media to the point that even my grandmother has a vague awareness of it.  However, its detractors are quick to point that social networks, microblogs, podcasts, and what have you all amount to an ocean of pointless drivel.

It response to this harsh attack of new media comes a growing trend of web users and developers who are looking to harness the power of the internet for what they call “social good.”

This purposely vague term is challenging anyone to explore new ways to use the net and encourage us to improve their real-life environments as well wherever we feel needs it the most.  This probably still sounds a little hazy so here are some examples to give an idea.


Youtopia is a social network system that acts as a score board for your daily achievements.  To put it simply, it’s like making X-Box achievements for your life where instead of getting a trophy for killing 20 people with one grenade you get a trophy for donating blood or volunteering at a hospital.

The goals are usually set up by an organization like a school or company but can run the gambit from not taking sick days to setting up a fund raiser for breast cancer awareness.  The merits you achieve are all recorded online where you can compare your do-gooderness to others in your company, school, or the world.


Named after the Ainu (aboriginals of Japan’s northern island) word for clean and beautiful, this smartphone app intends to make the world pirika.

They try to keep the concept as simple as possible.  When you find garbage on the street just pick it up, take a photo of it with the PIRIKA app, and then throw the litter into its appropriate receptacle. The app then uploads it to your personal page and keeps track of how much trash you remove from public spaces.

You can also look at other PIRIKA user’s accomplishments and give each other a virtual pat on the back to encourage more cleaning in the future.


CauseWalker is useful for those of us who are too busy to take part in walkathons by making every step you take a walkathon.  With the app installed on your mobile device it measures how far you walk or run.  Then it converts this distance into points where one kilometer equals one point.  It further converts the points into money where one point equals roughly 1 yen (US$0.01).

The money you generate from simply moving around is donated to an NPO by a sponsor organization.  Granted, earning four cents for walking four kilometers doesn’t sound like that much but with enough people doing it during their regular routines or exercises it could make a difference.

At this point many of you are probably getting the same awkward pang I did when I came across these programs.  Sure, their hearts are in the right place, but if you saw someone bragging on the internet, “Hey, I just picked up an empty can!” you’d probably find it a bit gauche. Most of us hold the belief that a good deed is best kept to ourselves.

But thinking about it logically, there seems to be more intrinsic good in getting over ourselves and perhaps adding some sport to helping make the world a better place. God knows we spend enough time and energy on things that make no difference whatsoever

Youtopia:  Homepage (English)

PIRIKA: Apple, Android (English and Japanese)

CauseWalker: Facebook Page (Japanese)