April 15, 2013 is a day which will not be forgotten for generations to come. A terrorist attack occurring at mile 26, near the end of the Boston Marathon has changed countless lives and altered history.
Social media played a significant role in the tragedy. That was not the surprising part. Many people found out about the evolving tragedy on a social media channel (including myself). Quickly, images of the first and second explosion surfaced followed by images of the seriously injured. Video of both explosions were spreading fast through Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. Vine videos even made an appearance.
The act of sharing photos and videos was not a surprise. The location of the blasts coupled with the mass amount of people watching the final steps of the marathon looking for loved ones with their phones and cameras out created a perfect storm for documenting the tragedy. The average person became a journalist by chance with their device acting as their publishing tool. While there are risks that come from sharing content from non-authoritative people, most of what was shared was accurate. There was a New York publication that egregiously missed the post.
What was and has been a surprise to me: how social media was used to communicate the situation from law enforcement accounts. The Boston Police used their Twitter account request video of the finish line, update the situation at the JFK library which was briefly linked to the bombings, and give instructions to people near the area. The fact that Boston Police chose social media as a viable option in a moment of crisis is a big deal. I will argue social media took a step forward in becoming even more mainstream and trustworthy.
The FBI is currently asking for any and all photos and videos from the crime scene to aid in their investigation. This is similar to the JFK assassination where the FBI asked for all video from the murder scene. However there are more than a few cameras compared to what was present during the JFK assassination. Will there be a Zapruder equivalent with this tragedy?
Additionally, Google released a people finder exclusive to the Boston Marathon where you were given two options: check on a loved one, or submit information on someone. This helped near 5,500 people be accounted for in a very chaotic time.
The events on April 15 were unfortunate on unimaginable levels. With the assistance of social media and technology, relevant information was able to spread quickly possibly saving lives, and potentially finding the terrorist who committed this unthinkable act.
I was on 96.3 KTWIN in Minneapolis this morning discussing this topic. Listen to my thoughts about social media’s role in the Boston Marathon tragedy.
Thoughts are with those impacted.
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