Paris and Social Media: Changing the World As We Know It

The internet has changed my world. Check that the internet has changed the world. Crazier yet the internet is redefining what my world is. Friday night was going well. My kids ate dinner and I had just cleaned the kitchen. We went downstairs and my wife said something wild was going on in Paris. She showed me a video that was posted on Facebook about an explosion that had happened. Most people have probably seen the clip of the soccer game where the explosion was clearly heard. That was where the internet and social media first started to be a game changer.

I googled soccer game, Paris, attack, and the early reports were filtering in that there was a terrorist attack and that hostages were taken. There was no waiting for the news that night or the newspaper tomorrow. We expect this instantaneous response to news now. It was not too long ago that this wasn’t the case.

My next step was going to Twitter and clicking on the Moments option on the bottom. This allowed me to see Tweets related to the bombing as well as my regular feed. This was one of the first times I had used this option. It kept me up to date with the events but did not overload me with drivel that the talking heads would spit out just to say something. This is something that I will be using again in the future (not just for horrific events).

An amazing thing occurred during this tragedy. “Some Twitter users in the city immediately began using the hashtag #PorteOuverte, or “open door,” to offer their homes as a shelter for those afraid to be on the streets with nowhere to go.” (Eggert, 2015) I had not heard about something this wonderful happening before. Maha Bali (Bali_Maha) informed me about this event in Australia which is extremely similar. Both events show that when people are needed the most they find a way to come through. Social media is allowing aid to happen instantaneously. 

Just when things are at their worst and I worry about the world imploding, I think of Mr. Roger’s mom’s words to him.

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” (link) 

Social media has many pitfalls, but it also has so much potential to bring us together. People opened their doors to anyone that needed safety during a time of need. They did not care about race, religion, gender, or any other dividing factor.

The hostage situation came to an end. This would have normally been the end of my journey. News articles would summarize what happened and I may or may not have read them. Ordinarily I would have been overloaded and stayed away from the negativity. Times are a changing. I opened up Voxer and @JustinAion was ranting about how the media was running with the story but routinely ignores what goes in Syria and other countries every day and how many people died in those countries from bombings that gain no traction in our mainstream media. This made me think. How much does the media control what I see and therefore what I think? Do Americans only worry about “civilized” countries? Do they ignore countries that don’t look and act like them? Are we desensitized to everything; or is it simply that we don’t care when people from other countries we deem lower than us kill each other? Is it elitism that causes us to ignore the world’s problems or is it something far worse? Could it be that we just don’t care about people that we don’t deem “refined”?

Social media played another key role for people who were in Paris or had connections to people in Paris. Facebook set up their site so that people could find out if their loved ones were safe. (link) This is another way that social media can be used to help people. Think about how very useful this would have been on 9/11 when people had to wait hours or a full day to find out if their loved ones were safe. The rampant use of cell phones makes this process so much more effective now.

After the attacks there were multiple tweets and pics about crowds of people gathering together to show support. I used the Periscope live video app to watch this happen live. That is amazing. Talk about the best way to create empathy!! These people became so much more real whn I am watching this unfold live.

My journey through this event was not finished yet. Social media still had one last influence on me. This came in the form of a blog written by Maha Bali which you should read here. Her blog raised so many points that mainstream media would have never touched on. She writes, “Because the sad thing about empathy is that we are more likely to be empathetic toward people who remind us of ourselves.” She is right. It is much easier for me to put myself in someone’s shoes that it is for me to relate to strangers. By strangers, I mean people that don’t look or act like me. I can relate those that look and act like me which is why Paris seemed so wild to me. These were people who were just like me and had no reason to die. The problem with that thinking is that by default I am saying that all the stories that I ignore about other people have died in bombings do not deserve the same empathy or respect. 

The only way to combat that is to make sure that we have people we interact with that don’t look and act like us. This allows us to see everyone as humans and create empathy. This oversimplifies a complex subject, but it is definitely a starting point in relating to those who are different from us. Maha’s blog has so many more points that I could have written my entire blog just in response to it. I highly recommend you read it.

Let me summarize how the internet and social media played such an important role in this event. It started with the everyone sharing the news on various social media outlets. Twitter played a pivotal role in providing people safe places during the event. Facebook created a way for people to find out if their loved ones were accounted for. Twitter moments allowed their users to be kept up to date. The discussions on Voxer, Twitter, and Facebook allowed people to voice their views that would have never been posted on mainstream media. Periscope allowed me to see the gathering of the crowds via a live feed. Blogs have been and are being, written which will push our thinking much further than anything that will be written in the associated press. The internet and social media have changed how I view the world by allowing the perspectives of others in. My world will never be the same. 

Q1: How do you build empathy for all people even the ones who differ from you? #slowchatpe

Q2: What are your thoughts on the moments function of Twitter? #slowchatpe

Q3: How could you aid people during a tragedy using social media? #slowchatpe

Q4: What did you use to keep yourself informed about during the bombing? #slowchatpe

Q5: Whose blog or tweets should people read to expand their views on an event? #slowchatpe

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