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Social Media in Social Crises: A 9/11 Case Study

September11Zoe-243x300Today people all around the world are remembering the terrible tragedy that took place 12 years ago on September 11th, 2001.

At the time, cell phones and the Internet were at their primal stages. There were no camera phones, no texting, and most importantly hardly any social media outlets.

What would things have been like if social media existed then and how has social media evolved since?

Live Coverage

At the time, I remember first hearing about the towers collapsing over the radio. As soon as I got home I turned on the television and was glued to the newscasts. I watched as the same few low resolution videos were replayed over and over again.

If social media was around, I’d likely have found out over Facebook or Twitter as the events unfolded. I would have looked to YouTube and Instagram to watch the hundreds of high resolution videos and pictures that would have been captured via cellphone and uploaded within minutes.

All this captured footage would have been extremely useful both before and after the buildings fell.

9-11 footageAfter the first tower was struck, people in the second one would have realized the magnitude of the situation and ignored the instructions to stay put and remain calm. They’d have seen the updates, images, and videos. Although this may have caused a greater panic and more chaos, it could have also saved countless lives.

In the aftermath, engineers and disaster planners could have used all the footage to better understand how the towers collapsed and how they could prevent this from ever happening again.

Personal Connections

Had social media networks existed at the time victims of 9/11 would have been given the opportunity to at least say goodbye to their loved ones, a privilege very few had. Phone lines were tied up and people didn’t have time once they actually found out how serious of a situation it actually was.

It would have also been reassuring to friends and families of those potentially in danger had they read a status update saying: “I’m okay, didn’t go in to work today. Thank God.” This would have also freed up the phone lines for other people and emergency units to get in touch.

After the panic settled, people put up posters of missing persons around the city. Today, their message would have had a much greater reach using social media. They would have also been more likely to get in touch using cellphones and find people immediately.

Relief Efforts

The relief efforts seen since 2001 from other disasters (Japan in 2011) have demonstrated the strength when the entire world comes together for a common cause using social media. Had it been around in 2001, far more help would have likely been provided from people all over the world.

9/11 Today

On this day every year, people across the world recall, remember, and reflect upon the events that unfolded 12 years ago over Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and various other social media networks.

Twitter911People connect over Twitter using hashtags. The top 7 trending Twitter hashtags today are all related to Sep. 11:

1) september11 2) #Neverforget 3) #wherewereyou 4) #alwaysremember 5) #remember911 6) #WTC 7) God Bless the USA

Furthermore, many Facebook profile pictures and cover photos honor the fallen victims and heroes. There are also numerous Facebook pages dedicated to remember 9/11 with details on memorials and ceremonies.

Other pages connect family members and friends so they can share and support each other through this difficult time. There is even a Facebook App that was created for everyone to connect, share stories, photos, etc.

How are you commemorating September 11th through your social media outlets? Comment below and share your thoughts.



One comment on “Social Media in Social Crises: A 9/11 Case Study

  1. It is hard to believe that social media has evolved so much in 12 years and how much of an impact it has made in our day to day life. Thank you for this timely article.

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