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A Tale of Two Tragedies: With and Without Social Media

Waking up on 9/11 was just like any other day for an elementary school student living in New York City. My mom woke me up, made me breakfast, got me dressed and I was out to door walking to school with my father. It wasn’t until I was sitting in my first-ever computer class that my teacher burst through the door, screamed that a plane hit the World Trade Center, and then started to sob. Not knowing what to say or do, we sat at our desks quietly as we listened to people screaming outside. As we saw smoke creep up the sidewalks and up to our windows, we panicked. Teachers who had access to a radio were talking about the rumors that were quickly spreading about other possible attacks. We heard about the possibility of bombs being placed in schools and I prayed for my mother and brother who were in academic buildings. My dad soon burst into my classroom and grabbed my hand, telling me we had to leave. We then sat around his office with his employees listening to the radio, watching people scurry around outside, and trying to put the pieces together.

But the radio was all we had. I didn’t have a cell phone to call my parents, nor did they have cell phones to contact my school.  Twitter and Facebook had yet to be created, and there was certainly no TV nearby to listen to the news. We waited around our landline phones for calls from family members. At night, we watched one news station to try to figure out what was happening.

And then there was today…

Waking up on July 20th, 2012 was just like any other day for a college student living in the digital world. I woke up,  browsed through my Instagram feed on my iPhone, and then started to check out the tweets I missed while I was asleep. I anticipated seeing word of how the most recent Batman movie was, expecting to hear about how amazing it was mixed in with a negative review. However, instead of that, I stumbled upon my roommate’s tweet.

Thinking that this may have been something personal that happened in her life, I dismissed the tweet and made a mental note to check back in with her later. Tweets posted shortly before this one included discussion of guns control laws, how people were in disbelief, and how sorry people were for victims in Aurora, CO. Feverishly scrolling through my Twitter feed, I quickly found the one tweet that summed up the events of the night.

My Twitter feed was quickly filled with talk of movie theaters, children, and the horrific news of what happened the night before. Tweets of sadness, disbelief, and links to articles about the event were all that anyone was talking about. I read articles directly from my phone, retweeted links to spread the word, and continued to read reactions from people I followed. I then decided to run a general search on Twitter for Aurora to see what others were saying.

It was only a matter of a few minutes before I knew the whole story. Facebook allowed us to keep track of what people were saying, along with Reddit, Twitter’s search, and a Storify. I didn’t event get out of bed and yet, the news was sitting in various forms in the palms of my hands.

I then turned on my compter to watch the news about the horrible incident. (Mind you I do have a TV, but why would I watch it when I had a computer within arms reach?) My other roommate walked in, said that she checked Twitter and heard what happened, and then watched the news with me.

A friend’s status update about her boyfriend (who is also my friend) regarding his status in Colorado.

Checking Facebook later while at work, I stumbled across this status update. Developments, as well as continued condolences and reactions were overflowing the Internet.

And so it goes in the Age of Social Media

News stations and Twitter accounts are still curating data and aggregating responses to best show the reaction to the news. Syracuse University is especially grateful to have Class of 2012 Class Marshall Stephen Barton (mentioned above) alive and well.  News will continue to pour in today as more people share their personal accounts of the story and updates on the alleged shooter are further investigated.

And yet, I can access it all from something I can carry in my pocket. I have yet to turn on the tv, sit around a television with my family, or look outside to try and get the news.

Social media has given us the ability to discover information faster than ever, discuss thoughts, send condolences, and share reactions.  Keeping up with the latest news or the ability to share your opinion with the world has never been easier, or more convenient.  What a difference eleven years makes.

Do you have a personal story to share of how you became aware of this news, or other major news via social media?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

Note: I do not think the events of 9/11 are comparable to the events of the shooting early this morning, the stories were compared merely for a comparison of the spread of news. My heart goes out to the victims of this awful tragedy as well as family, friends, and those injured. 

 

Anne Marie Suchanek

Hi! I'm Anne Marie, a second year Masters in Information Management student at the Syracuse University School of Information Studies. Feel free to chat with me on Twitter @AnneMarieNY

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