It has been a terrible day for humanity.
What happened in Paris overnight is an unspeakable act of terrorism designed to hurt and frighten the public. It can only be described as horrific. My heart bleeds for all those caught up or affected by these deplorable acts.
One takeaway from these senseless acts is the role that social media had to play. As is becoming the norm, social media was the first to break the news. Even in the early stages of the attacks, where the facts were contradictory and the news was being somewhat sensationalised, it was still an avenue that allowed the public to view almost firsthand the events unfolding.
Whilst Twitter was the first to break the story, in my opinion Facebook provided the most useful tool, the Safety Check.
This tool allows Facebook to target people known to be in an affected area, and asks them to “mark” themselves safe. The tool will then automatically send out a notification to your friend list letting them know that you are safe, no status update required. Before last night, I had never seen this tool before and while I am in no hurry to see it again, you cannot help but see the benefit of it. This tool was first used during the Nepal earthquake disaster back in April, and so far it has proven to be a very valuable addition to social media.
In addition to the Facebook tool, two ongoing hashtags dominated the airwaves of social media last night. #prayforparis quickly began trending as thousands upon thousands of people across the world took to social media to show their support and condolences to those caught up in the events.
Arguably more useful than #prayforparis was the #parisouvert hashtag. By tagging this in your status it effectively allowed Parisians to offer shelter and safety to those caught up on the streets with nowhere where to go. This hashtag demonstrated the community banding together under dire circumstances and showed there was support when it was so desperately needed.
Of course it is not all good on social media. The pace at which the news was broken meant that many were jumping to conclusions and not bothering to check the facts first. Many used this as an opportunity to blanket blame Muslims for everything that is wrong with the world. Even the BBC news coverage questioned whether we were right to let refugees into our countries, as we could have been letting in the terrorists as well. Do they not realise that the refugees are running from the same people as well? The actions of a few radicals cannot be allowed condemn rest of the population. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr.:
“Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Let’s hope the love and support that was demonstrated on social media can prove this to be true.