America experienced a tragedy this week when bombs were set off at the Boston Marathon, and innocent people were killed and injured. There was an immediate outpouring of emotion on social media supporting the victims and their families, as well as support for the city of Boston itself. I recently read an article on Buzzfeed that raises the question, has social media changed the way we experience tragedies by making us feel that we have to post something about it? While it is understandable that people feel the need to express their solidarity during moments of national tragedy, it seems that there is so much pressure to immediately jump on the stream of commentary. Many people use social media as a way to work out their feelings about what happened or to offer their condolences to the family or the people directly affected.
There are also downsides to using social media as a public grieving place, it can open up its users to being scammed by people spreading misinformation and capitalizing on other people’s grief; a couple examples of this were the stories that went around about the man who was going to propose to his girlfriend just as she passed away, and also about the little girl who was killed waiting for her father. As more information became available, we learned that these stories were false. There is a danger of these tragedies becoming politicized and that everyone has their own agenda and uses these events to forward these agendas. These posts or tweets that can provide a sense of moral support to the victims and their families, if they are done in the right way, they can show them that people care and want to offer support all over the country. There are also some social media responses that help with raising money or clearing up misinformation. While social media can help people figure out their feelings about a national tragedy and offer up feelings of support towards the victim, it can also be more helpful to talk to a real person or even volunteer to help the victims affected by the tragedy.