There are two types of social media users in the world: those who endlessly complain about petty problems and those who use it to tackle the world’s most taxing trials. If you get caught up on the first kind of social media user, it makes you wonder if this technology is making us unoriginal and self-centered. But after Monday's tragedy at the Boston Marathon, we know more of you are the second kind of social media user. We know you’re using social media to communicate about something bigger than yourself. You’re using it for good.
Like the media, who used Twitter to get the word out, especially the ones who worked hard to make sure they got it right before they tweeted. As more and more reporters use Twitter to break news and find sources, it’s becoming more and more critical that they place accuracy over speed. Just last week Houston Social Media Breakfast brought together members of the media to discuss the importance of this issue (among others); and Monday, we saw so many reporters who waited for confirmation and stressed what they did know instead of what they didn’t. They made sure the victims, their families and the people anxiously awaiting updates were respected.
Like the folks at Google, who acted fast to reactivate the Person Finder, originally created for the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, to find people after the explosions Monday afternoon. Those looking for loved ones who otherwise would have been left uncertain were able to reunite. And Boston.com, the web arm of The Boston Globe, created a Google Doc where marathon runners who planned to fly out of town that night could express need for a place to stay and Bostonians could offer their homes.
Like those who shared hope. In times like this, when an occasion that was meant for celebration is marred by the most unthinkable types of destruction, it’s hard to find some good in the world. But there were people who took to social media and shared stories of hope, like the runners who crossed the finish line and kept on running to donate blood for victims. Or the anonymous person who bought the domain bostonmarthonconspiracy.com just to post “I bought this domain to keep some conspiracy theory kook from owning it. Please keep the victims of this event and their families in your thoughts.” Or those who joined the Facebook group Run 26.2 for Boston, a grassroots effort to rally runners to dedicate their next 26.2 miles for those who ran their last on Monday or those who didn’t finish. These individuals remind us that there are good, thoughtful people out there.
Through the constant updates and the outpouring of support, we saw first-hand what social media can be. Social media created the closest thing the world has ever known to a society in which every single individual has a voice and the opportunity to say whatever they want with that voice. Throughout history, we have been moving toward that opportunity. From the muckrakers who went undercover for stories untold to the creators of the Internet, this universal communication tool is what they all were working toward.
Social media can be a vehicle for change, a place for positivity, the tool we use to inform, inspire and share. It’s up to us to make it happen. Yesterday we saw hundreds of thousands of people choose the latter. We saw people use social media for good.
(image: social media in a tragedy / shutterstock)