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The Boston Tragedy and Social Media: How Did We Do?

The Social Media Response To The Boston TragedyWe are all reeling from the news in Boston yesterday, and we are all praying and wishing we could do more to support the city and the victims.

Naturally, social media sites were hopping all afternoon and evening, with informational tweets and mutually shared horror and outrage.

Social media during past tragedies such as Sandy Hook have been a mix of support, information, and rumor spreading and even fraud. But it does seem like we’re beginning to learn sadly, from experience about being more responsible during such a tragic event.

Billy Goodykoontz of USA Today talked about this trend in his column.

…on Monday, particularly on Twitter, we saw the power and weight of words being taken into account.

Don’t use a word like “bomb” until you know it’s not some other type of explosion, many warned. Never toss around terms like “terrorism” and “attack” without confirming their validity. And, for the most part, at least in my Twitter feed, most seemed to follow that advice.

PandoDaily suggested that maybe social media is finally maturing a bit.

Throughout the day, as death counts and suspect descriptions from places like the New York Post turned out to be false or embellished, there was a much more cautious attitude on social media than during past breaking news events. Merely one source, or one news outlet’s report (whether it was from the Post or from a more reputable establishment), wasn’t enough to be considered “confirmed.” In fact, “unconfirmed” was the word of the day.

There was plenty of evidence that social media was used yesterday to do much good; Google created a person finder to help family members find each other, for instance. Because of overwhelmed cell service, many simply went home and let people know via Facebook that they were safe.

But the day wasn’t hoax free; Snopes reported at least two hoaxes, one of a fake suspect photo and another involving a popular TV cartoon The Family Guy, and even the New York Post reported a handful of  wildly inflated numbers and untrue stories, including rumors of a Saudi national being held for questions.

The worst story, in my opinion, came when a father learned his son was injured from a photo on Facebook (the now famous photo of the young man being wheeled to safety while missing part of a leg, the bone visible). Clearly the next thing we need to learn when it comes to social media and tragedy; no posting of grisly photos.

What do you think? How did we score as a social media nation during a tragedy?

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