Social Media and #BostonMarathon Bombings

By now you have definitely heard about, read or watched the unfolding of events at the Boston Marathon this Monday where two bombs exploded near the finish line, killing three people and injuring 170. In the immediate wake of the bombings, details of the explosion were already making waves on social media.

Dan Lampariello (@Boston_to_a_T) tweeted this photo just after the first explosion occurred.

Eight minutes later, Reuters’ social media editor Anthony De Roas (@AntDeRosa) retweeted the photo. Within minutes, swarms of other photos and videos appeared on various social media channels, superseding major news outlets.

Social media also informed the public about relief efforts and the whereabouts of loved ones. The first tweet hashtagged #BostonHelp occurred just after 3pm and is now attached to over 1,500 tweets.  This single hashtag notified the public about places to get food, sleep and charge phones.  To further help with relief efforts, The Boston Globe launched an editable Google Doc, which allowed any willing internet user to offer assistance to those in need.

Google People Finder, another social media application, assisted in locating missing persons by collating posts about lost individuals with information from other databases.  With phone lines shut down, this tool was especially helpful, as people frantically sought information on the safety of family and friends.

The most popular app on the market right now, Vine, a six-second video platform, showed the potential amplification of the platforms reach when a Vine covering the initial blast at the finish line was posted by @doug_lorman. Since then it has been reposted over 15,700 times and seen by over 40,000 people.

In the days following the attack, citizens sent photos from various platforms to news stations in an effort to identify a suspect. Although the culprit still remains at large, we can see how social media has played an enormous part in the collection of evidence for the Boston Marathon crime scene and demonstrate its power to bring people together through information sharing in real time.

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