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Internet Etiquette in Times of Tragedy: Reflecting on the social media reaction to the marathon bombing

As the generation that grew with the rise of the smart-phone and social media, we are constantly told that we are too “plugged in.” But when the phone lines went down and the cheers of the 2013 Boston Marathon sideline were drowned out by an eerie symphony of sirens, we were able to plug in for the answers we needed.

Facebook and Twitter were immediately overwhelmed with real-time updates, pictures and testimonials. I’ve never been more grateful to be so connected with friends and acquaintances as confirmations of safety flooded my newsfeed. But amidst the heartfelt messages and calls for prayer, the infamous Venga Boys song, “Boom boom boom boom” cropped up on my newsfeed, posted by a decidedly tasteless Facebook friend. I was speechless. Then outraged.

While Facebook and Twitter have proven to be invaluable resources during times of tragedy, there are important rules of thumb to adhere to when navigating your social media during such an event.

The Do’s and Dont’s

1. Let your family know you are safe

With phone lines down, I was bombarded by dozens of texts from family and friends hoping to confirm that I was not stuck in the crosshairs of the chaos at Copley. Updating your status and confirming your safety not only saves your parents a few grey hairs, it helps free up the phone lines for those who really need it.

2. Show, don’t tell, your support

While good intentions might motivate you to expressing your support through a regurgitated hashtag sentiment, remember that actions speak louder than words. Post links to search engines designed to reunite families and runners. Find out if hospitals require replenishment of the blood reserves and publicize that information.

3. Leave your tasteless jokes at the door

Given the magnitude of the Boston marathon tragedy it is safe to assume that punny bomb references will probably never be funny. If you’re wondering, asking someone if they had a “bomb Marathon Monday” is a surefire way to publicize your ignorance and insensitivity.

4. Social media should not be your soapbox

What happened at Copley on Marathon Monday was nothing short of devastation. Rest assured that we are all equally outraged such an evil act of violence. That does not give you the right to point fingers at minority groups or launch crusades against government figures without any semblance of proof. Our effort should been spent supporting our beloved community, not tearing it down with hateful Facebook monologues.

In a few weeks time, when the hype dies down and Instagrammed selfies start replacing the calls for Bostonian solidarity, it will be important to remember that social media exists for more than shameless self-promotion. Facebook and Twitter give us a voice – one that we should continue to use to rally behind our incredible city.

Posted by on April 18, 2013. Filed under Around the Hub. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.