The Importance of Social Media During Tragedies

When last week’s horrific events occurred in Boston, people who were at the marathon (or in the Boston area) were flooded with calls, texts and messages, asking if they were safe. During this time I was driving home from the Marathon with my wife, who had finished the race, and she spent the entire car ride answering texts and phone calls to both of our phones, letting people know we were our of harm’s way.

Once we arrived home I want on Facebook and put up a message, letting our friends and family know we were home safe. While the calls and texts still came in, the post was able to inform many people at once, and the message was also passed through cousins to older family members that weren’t on Facebook:

As I scanned through my Facebook news feed, I saw countless other friends and acquiescence who posted something similar. Some were at the marathon, others work or live in/around Boston. In either case, Facebook became the place to ensure everyone that you were safe.

When the September 11th attacks occurred in 2001, there wasn’t Facebook or another social network that people were using. The only way to find out if someone was safe was through a phone call, text message, email or word of mouth. As a result, it took folks much longer to discover if their friends and family were safe, especially considering the cell towers were overwhelmed by the amount of calls being made. In Boston last week the cell towers were again overwhelmed at times, but social (and smartphones) provided a way around that.

The impact that Facebook has on today’s world is unprecedented. Never before have so many people been connected in one way, with the ability to share information to one’s near-entire social circle so quickly and efficiently. While many people complain about Facebook’s privacy changes, news feed updates and other annoyances, there’s no doubting the importance that the social network brings in moments like these.

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