Terror is no match for information

By Bethany Chambers | Digital Operations Manager

Terror struck the world this weekend. It struck first in the form of bombings and shootings and, then in the unknown — the fear of what could be next.

But terror is no match for information.

In the midst of the attacks, those closest to it bore witness on Facebook and Twitter in real time, many of those in imminent danger alerted to it via second-by-second updates from international news media and individuals alike.

Social media proved what it could do when citizens became on-the-spot reporters working with professional journalists, how it could bring neighbors together through a hashtag and the world together through real-time coverage.

This was one of those days I was proud of what social media can do.

#NousSommesUnis, we are united on social media

Parisians welcomed strangers into their homes using #porteouverte and the English translation #opendoor. Families crowd-sourced searches for loved ones in media images using #rechercheParis. Survivors posted their whereabouts using Safety Check, the Facebook function typically reserved for natural disasters.

And those around the world showed their support with #prayforparis, with a blue-white-and-red filter on their Facebook profile pictures, with a simple sketch of a peace symbol ensconcing the Eiffel Tower.

A photo posted by @jean_jullien on

Sure there were the usual cases of confusion and ugliness that accompany any mass media event — people who mistakenly identified a British soccer star in danger, opportunists who used the devastation to advance tangentially related special interests, anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Those were the exception, not the rule.

For one day, a departure from the United Selfies of America

This weekend, the U.S.A. wasn’t an acronym for United Selfies of America. We identified with the images we saw doused in blood – of young people attending a rock concert, coworkers crowded at bars, college students studying at cafes, families enjoying a sporting event – and empathized with the people of Paris.

For one evening, we all rallied around Benjamin Cazenoves, the concert-goer who posted to Facebook from inside the Bataclan where he was wounded and watching people “cut down…one-by-one.” We breathed a sigh of relief when he reported he was safe.

This is the community social media was conceived to nurture, one where we engage with those we otherwise wouldn’t meet. This is the enlightenment social media can engender, when it informs us in a way that personalizes serious issues like global terrorism.

And, if this weekend is any indication, this is an outcome social media was perfectly designed to fulfill, combating ignorance, injustice and inhumanity with information.