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How big data revealed a powerful forgotten ally in the fight against Zika.

In 2015, the Zika virus cropped up in Latin America. In doing so, it planted itself firmly in our worry-filled human minds, too.

Photo from Luis Robayo/AFP/Getty Images.

Zika is a mosquito-borne virus that can make people very sick. It causes a variety of problems, including birth defects in unborn children.


In February 2016, the Brazilian chapter of UNICEF (the United Nations program aimed at supporting women and children in the developing world) wanted to help educate people about the disease. So they started to develop an awareness campaign.

The right message to the right people can save lives — but how do you make sure your message is right?

In most stories, this would be the place where the organization comes up with a game plan, runs it through a focus group, hires some graphic designers or copywriters, then distributes the new message. Maybe afterward, they'd do an analysis to see if they aimed right.

But in this case, that's not what UNICEF did. They suspected there might be a better way.

Before they even started on the campaign, UNICEF teamed up with Facebook to figure out who their audience for Zika actually was.

“In order to address a problem, you have to understand how the public is thinking about it," says Molly Jackman, a research manager at Facebook.

UNICEF ended up working with Facebook and another partner, ActionSprout. They pulled a bunch of anonymous, aggregated data from Brazilian Facebook, trying to find out what the public really was saying about the virus.

They ended up finding some surprising information.

One of the big secret success factors to Zika awareness? Men.

A doctor told this dad his child might be in danger because of Zika. Photo by Diego Herculano/NurPhoto.

Conventional thinking was that because everyone was talking about Zika's dangers to pregnant women, any messages about health and safety should be targeted at women. Seems obvious, yeah? But it turned out men weren't exactly being silent about it.

In fact, men were responsible for the majority of posts about Zika. Moms weren't the only ones worried about Zika's potential effect on babies. Dads were too.

UNICEF realized it had accidentally ignored this huge group of people in its messaging. So it created a post specifically aimed at engaging the dads of Brazil in fighting Zika.

Este pai quer ajudar outras famílias a conviver com a microcefalia.Quando soube que a esposa estava grávida, Felipe se...

Posted by UNICEF Brasil on Friday, 29 April 2016

Based on the Facebook analysis, UNICEF was also able to hit a couple of other areas, like preemptively reinforcing that Zika wasn't a laughing matter. They also created Q&A sessions with experts and expanded their education to other mosquito-based disease.

All this work paid off. An after-the-fact analysis showed that people who got this info were not only more engaged, aware, and more likely to take action to prevent the spread of the disease, but their results beat out a traditional campaign.

Social media is a tool that can be used for good, and this story shows that.

Like all tools, we should be mindful of how we use it, of course. But the right tool in the right hands can make a huge difference.

“Trends in the public conversation are vitally important to health organizations," says Jackman. "That information can save lives.”

The internet is a big, weird place. But it's pretty cool that in this case, we harnessed it for good.

Image from YouTube video.

An emotional and strong Matt Diaz.


Matt Diaz has worked extremely hard to lose 270 pounds over the past six years.

But his proudest moment came in March 2015 when he decided to film himself with his shirt off to prove an important point about body positivity and self-love.

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Community

Man uses social media to teach others ASL so kids don't experience what he did as a child

Every child should be able to communicate in a way that works best for them.

Man teaches people ASL so no child experiences what he did

People start communicating from the moment they enter the world usually through cries, faces, grunts and squeals. Once infants move into the toddler phase the combine all of their previous communication skills with pointing and saying a few frequently used words like "milk," "mama," "dada" and "eat."

Children who are born without the ability to hear often still go through those same stages with the exception of their frequently used words being in sign language. But not all hearing parents know sign language, which can stunt the language skills of their non-hearing child. Ronnie McKenzie is an American Sign Language advocate that uses social media to teach others how to sign so deaf and nonverbal kids don't feel left out.

"But seriously i felt so isolated 50% of my life especially being outside of school i had NONE to sign ASL with. Imagine being restricted from your own language," McKenzie writes in his caption.

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Family

Wife says husband's last name is so awful she can't give it to her kids. Is she right?

"I totally get we can’t shield kids from everything, and I understand the whole family ties thing, but c’mon."

A wife pleads with her husband to change their child's name.

Even though it’s 2023 and schools are much more concerned with protecting children from bullying than in the past, parents still have to be aware that kids will be kids, and having a child with a funny name is bound to cause them trouble.

A mother on Reddit is concerned that her future children will have the unfortunate last name of “Butt,” so she asked people on the namenerds forum to help her convince her husband to name their child something different.

(Note: We’re assuming that the person who wrote the post is a woman because their husband is interested in perpetuating the family name, and if it were a same-sex relationship, a husband probably wouldn’t automatically make that assumption.)

"My husband’s last name is Butt. Can someone please help me illuminate to him why this last name is less than ideal,” she asked the forum. “I totally get we can’t shield kids from everything and I understand the whole family ties thing, but c'mon. Am I being unreasonable by suggesting our future kid either take my name, a hybrid, or a new one altogether?"

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Joy

Bus driver comes to the rescue for boy who didn't have an outfit for school's Pajamas Day

“It hurt me so bad…I wanted him to have a good day. No child should have to miss out on something as small as pajama day.”

Representative Image from Canva

One thoughtful act can completely turn someone's day around.

On the morning just before Valentine’s Day, school bus driver Larry Farrish Jr. noticed something amiss with Levi, one of his first grade passengers, on route to Engelhard Elementary, part of Jefferson County Public School (JCPS) in Louisville, Kentucky.

On any other day, the boy would greet Farrish with a smile and a wave. But today, nothing. Levi sat down by himself, eyes downcast, no shining grin to be seen. Farrish knew something was up, and decided to inquire.

With a “face full of tears,” as described on the JCPS website, Levi told Farrish that today was “Pajama Day” at school, but he didn’t have any pajamas to wear for the special occasion.
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via Imgur

Memories of testing like this gets people fired up.

It doesn't take much to cause everyone on the internet to go a little crazy, so it's not completely surprising that an incorrect answer on a child's math test is the latest event to get people fired up.

The test in question asked kids to solve "5 x 3" using repeated addition. Under this method, the correct answer is "5 groups of 3," not "3 groups of 5." The question is typical of Common Core but has many questioning this type of standardized testing and how it affects learning.

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Joy

There are over 30 years between these amazing before-and-after photos.

"It's important for me for my photography to make people smile."

All photos by Chris Porsz/REX/Shutterstock.

Before and after photos separated by 30 years.


Chris Porsz was tired of studying sociology.

As a university student in the 1970s, he found the talk of economics and statistics completely mind-numbing. So instead, he says, he roamed the streets of his hometown of Peterborough, England, with a camera in hand, snapping pictures of the people he met and listening to their stories. To him, it was a far better way to understand the world.

He always looked for the most eccentric people he could find, anyone who stood out from the crowd. Sometimes he'd snap a single picture of that person and walk away. Other times he'd have lengthy conversations with these strangers.

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