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Connecting with Boston

Where were you on Monday when Boston was rocked with explosions?

I was having lunch with someone who was supposed to be watching the marathon with his friends just a few buildings over from where the devices exploded. He’s from Boston but was delayed in flying back home because of our little snowfall on Sunday.

From the minute we saw the breaking story announced on the screens at the restaurant, I checked Twitter constantly to stay posted as the story continued to unfold. I luckily follow a number of news sources and social media journalists who uncover and share information literally the second it happens. I use Twitter as a way to stay informed as well as to share with those who follow me (but may not choose to follow news sources).

Twitter is so much more than just a one-way street. It’s the central nervous system of communication and the avenue for rapid-fire dialogue. It’s where social news and current events meet and blend together as one. It’s a real-time forum for conversation and discussion about important, and in this case, horrific events. And I know my computer-mediated communication professor may cringe when I say this, but it connects us with one another and makes physical distance feel obsolete.

Not only did Twitter and other digital and social media connect the larger American and global audience, but authorities used these online tools to disseminate important messages with specific actions to take such as “clear the hotel,” “don’t block the phone signals unnecessarily” or “make room on the streets for the police.” Social media is literally embedded in emergency response strategies, and the nation watched and listened in awe and terror for updates by the minute.

But what really got me thinking about the role of social media in this disaster is the thousands of tweets that were spread virally by respectful, thoughtful, and engaged fellow human beings who poured out support for Boston. While I’m not trying to equate Twitter users to heroic first responders, I thought it was amazing to see so many engaging in discussion and sharing important messages of hope and love amidst the chaos.

Because of social media, I think we all felt a little closer to Boston on Monday. Amazing stories and photos from the incident were shared at rapid rates and we all offered our thoughts and prayers to the city, the marathon participants, first-responders and everyone affected by it.

What do you think? Did social media help us be more interconnected as human beings on Monday? Tweet me your thoughts @jtleeman.

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