The online world can often show itself to be a dark place associated with negative connotations. But whilst we understand the digital sphere can cause a lot of harm, when it is used in the right way, it also has the power to do a lot of good.

A community on the online platform of Reddit proved this to be the case when they recently adopted 3,500 gorillas across just six days. The group, called WallStreetBets, also donated $350,000 to the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.

Before I continue, if you are unsure about how Reddit works (like I was before writing this article) I will quickly explain the concept of the site. Reddit is a platform made up of multiple forums where people share content and have discussions. The site is organised into lots of ‘subreddits’ which focus on different topics, so it is basically one big platform made up of thousands of communities who are devoted to and discuss different areas.

The subreddit of WallStreetBets managed to surpass the typical number of adoptions that the charity receives, by a huge amount, seeing as they normally get around 20 adoptions across a weekend. It all snowballed after one member posted that they had adopted a gorilla from the charity, prompting many more users to do the same, as well as donate thousands to the fund. The charity has since announced that the thousands raised will go towards field programmes so more can be learnt about wild gorillas in their natural habitat.

Whilst the president of the Fund, Dr Tara Stoinski, said that the ‘the investor community on Reddit is not traditionally who we think of as our supporter base’, the fact that members of the group refer to each other as ‘apes’ could be a reason that the community was so keen to get behind the cause. Whilst some members of the subreddit aren’t fond of this term, the reference is to the film the Planet of the Apes, where a character says ‘apes together strong’. The users of WallStreetBets often use this line when talking about how they use their community presence to challenge the stock market.

It was evident just how powerful this community presence was, earlier this year, when the subreddit made a big impact in the world of economics. They shook the stock market by using their platform to increase the share price of struggling games retailer, GameStop, with the share price for the company eventually shooting up from $4 to $500.

In the past, they have also done the same for other struggling companies, such as BlackBerry. Yet, it was their situation with GameStop that really made the headlines. It caused massive waves in the financial world, with WallStreetBets facing claims that they had ‘collectively manipulated the market’. This resulted in some platforms restricting trade and the White House Secretary stating that the situation was being monitored.

Whilst there is no doubt that WallStreetBets advocation of GameStop caused drama in the stock market, it does show that great change can be made when people come together. Even when considering the controversy surrounding the situation, founder of Reddit Steve Huffman said: ‘I think I’m happy and encouraged when human beings come together to do something incredible’.

Dr Stoinski also said that WallStreetBets adopting so many gorillas and donating huge amounts of money had ‘shown what can be accomplished when people come together.’

It is incredible that an online community has been able to grow, gain media attention and manage to reach amazing achievements such as adopting thousands of gorillas. It inspires us to join forces with others and gives us hope of a future where online platforms can be used to encourage more positive change.