Savvy Sound-Off: National Tragedy & Social Media

By: Kéwé Mbengue 20130422-133956.jpg

The events that took place in Boston last week were horrific. Photographs of the after-effects of the two explosions that took place during the marathon are still rolling through the media airwaves like clockwork - maimed bystanders, children in wheelchairs, bloodied streets, shocked and tearful onlookers.

The reception of this national tragedy to the general public is similar to that of the awful events that took place in Newtown last December. If you ask anyone how they learned about what was happening, an overwhelming majority could say they found out through social media. I, myself, found out via Twitter.

The news of the bombings first broke out from The Boston Globe, followed by a staggering amount of retweets and status updates of the events as they were being reported.

Then came the reactions.

There was a chaotic mixture of shock and sadness as the first wave of Vine videos and graphic images gave us all a sense of how disastrous things were. Almost immediately, there was an outpouring of prayers and thoughtful words for the victims as it started to sink in that this was clearly a senseless act of violence. As some time went by, the blame game began. There was no word whatsoever of who was responsible for planting the bombs, but there were theories, finger pointing, fears of this being another terror attack, and endless rumors. At one point, a photo of an unidentified man on a roof - a photo now best known as "The Man on the Roof" - made its rounds, as many speculated as to whether or not he was involved.

For me, however, there were two significant moments throughout this day: the ignorance that came from those uninformed few on Twitter, Facebook, and blogs and the amount of people rushing towards those who needed help.

When the word terrorism comes up in a discussion of any form, there will always be an opinionated few that will suggest a certain group or type of person that would do such a thing. In post-9/11 America, it came as no surprise to me that the words Arab and Muslim were trending worldwide on Twitter. What did surprise me was the hatred towards those two groups. The amount of cynicism and racism is stupendous and makes me question the role that media serves to the general public. When certain thoughts are expressed by "trusted" sources and are heard by those who are quick to believe the first thing they hear, who's fault is it when those thoughts turn into acts of contention against certain groups?

We live in an unpredictable world which can be violent and ugly, especially recently. I've come to realize that in the event of a calamity such as this Boston marathon bombing, even with the awful prejudices and bitterness, there will always be a sense of togetherness and selflessness among those immediately involved and those who want to help. Watching the bombs go off in the various videos made public was frightening, but the large crowd of people running towards those who were bleeding and directly impacted by the explosion made me feel proud. Seeing the serviceable first responders and the Good Samaritans getting people out of the way and helping victims look for their family members is what I will take away from this horrible situation. I have and always will have an immense faith in humanity and in the belief that the good will forever outweigh the bad.

So, friends, I leave you with the words of Patton Oswalt: "...when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, 'The good outnumber you, and we always will.'"

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