Horrible news broke today that two bombs were detonated near the finish line at the Boston Marathon. So far, it's been reported that at least two people are dead and at least 23 are injured. Social media immediately became a lifeline for people trying to find out the status of friends and family. The Boston Marathon sent out messages on both Facebook and Twitter telling people to meet at the Boston Common in order to check in. Within hours, a website run by the Red Cross went up where people can list themselves as safe or look for runners and Google launched a person finder.
The hashtag #prayforboston almost immediately began trending, and Facebook became flooded with news of runners who were okay. Wrote one friend of a friend:
Confirmed that everyone I know running Boston is safe! Social media is amazing -- officials are actually telling everyone to check in on social media to let friends and family know they are okay.
A Boston Marathon Bombing Facebook page has also been set up, where people are checking in, help phone lines are given, and new information is shared. (Another explosion FB page, which I won't promote, seems solely to have been put up on FB and Twitter to gain followers, at least according to the many irate messages left on its wall.)
Wrote Rep. Michael Grimm of New York on his Facebook page:
Facebook and social media can be key assets in disseminating useful updates and information in a crisis such as this ... those of you with friends or family competing in the race, you can use the link below to help determine their whereabouts.
As I was scrolling through Facebook, I realized one of my own relatives was at the marathon. Her post read:
Thanks for checking on me friends ... I'm safe. Praying for everyone's safety. [Name of relative] check in please.
Since that relative "liked" her update, I guess he's okay too.
Social media is certainly an incredibly useful tool these days, especially as the world seems to get ever more dangerous, whether it's terrorist attacks or natural disasters. I personally found Facebook and Twitter crucial during Hurricane Sandy for news, updates, and check-ins from friends. That doesn't mean that false information won't get spread and then quickly taken as fact. Just because it appears on Twitter doesn't make it true.
But compared to the days when people waited in New York for the arrival of the Carpathia to see who did and didn't survive the sinking of the Titanic, social media is irreplaceable.
Did you know anyone at the Marathon?
Image via CNN/YouTube