Social Media an outlet for news and support in wake of Boston bombing

First and foremost, my thoughts go out to all those affected by the events that took place this past Tuesday at the Boston Marathon, especially to our students, faculty, and administrators from the Boston area. What has happened is a tragedy and it reminds us not only of how fragile life is, but also how strongly we come together in times like these. In the wake of what happened, it’s absolutely remarkable to see how social media websites come together to not only report the events as they develop, but also create a space for people to offer help, give support, and show what humanity can do to respond to tragedy.

As the news came in of the events that took place just this Monday, it is impressive how quickly the internet erupted with a response to show the events as they took place from their viewpoint. Between Twitter, Vine, YouTube, and a myriad of other social media websites, wide array of content came pouring in, all tagged with respect to the Boston bombing, and offering a powerful outlet through which people could learn about the events instantly and uncensored.

On Reddit, users took up the task of curating and organizing content for consumption, putting up a number of threads following events, handing off to other users as the day grew into night. Users would post by the minute updates of news from major outlets, press conferences from government officials, and play by play coverage of events that would rush to the front page, offering everyone comprehensive coverage at no cost, and without commercials. More and more people capable of receiving very in depth looks into events instantly, as they happen, and it’s an impressive show of human capability.

What’s also interesting is how the media and law enforcement agencies have responded to the crowd-sourced news and utilized it as an asset. While typically the media usually sources its own photographs and content for broadcast and publication, what’s becoming even more apparent is the media serving as a curator for content to be published, rather than using its own photographs and content. Since folks posting on Twitter don’t leave watermarks for rival media groups, this gives them a powerful asset to publish content through, getting the best shots while not promoting rivals, all in return for modest attribution. This has been the trend in the past few years, and the fact videos and photos instantly arrive on Twitter gives media a powerful conduit to source content through. But now even the media agencies aren’t the only ones doing it. Law enforcement agencies ranging from local police in Boston to the FBI  have requested people to send all their photos and videos, as well as sourcing raw footage from Vine and YouTube to reconstruct the events that took place, citing no piece of evidence as “too small”.

As the news developed, with it came an outpouring of support from all over the world for people affected by the events that took place in Boston. While what has happened is nothing less than horrible, it’s absolutely remarkable to see the support from random individuals from the public at large looking to do what they can to step in to help, even if they had never set foot in Boston ever in their lives. People who lived in the Boston area were quick to offer up a place to sleep, a warm meal, or someone to talk to as friends and family dealt with the tragedy as best they could. People were even offering up their frequent flyer miles to mere strangers to help out as best they could.

Even corporations are jumping in to offer their support, using the internet and social media as a vehicle to accomplish this. Numerous airlines, including JetBlue and Southwest Airlines, offered free arrangements to move dates and accommodate the needs of those affected by what happened in Boston. Google also set up an emergency person finder so that people could find out if their loved ones were affected and how to get in touch with them, as phone services clogged in the hours following the bombing. It’s cases like these that are remarkable in showing how everyone coming together in times like these, willing to give up precious things to total strangers, from giant corporations to just average people on the internet.

We cannot change the events that took place this past Monday. We cannot unfortunately bring back the lives of those who died from this attack in the heart of Boston. We cannot undo the damage, but we can mourn, and admire the remarkable response to this tragedy, despite having never set foot in Boston. It’s amazing to see how social media is offering a space for this unconditional human caring to take place.

Hopefully we will continue to see this take place in the years to come, and as social media continues to be an asset in our lives, it will continue to allow great things to happen, even when we have to face terrible things like this.


—Joshua Sherman ‘16 is an English major. He is Opinions Editor of The Miscellany News

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