The Power of Real-Time Social Media

Today tragegy struck Northeast Ohio – a teenager opened fire in a cafteria before school started killing one and wounding four others. And while the entire city of Cleveland and the country mourn and ask questions, I am amazed at the role social media played in educating the public about this tragic occurence.

This morning when I first heard the news, I immediately went to Facebook and Twitter to see what what posted. By 9 a.m. Chardon, Ohio was one of the top-trending topics in the world on Twitter. A small town 30 miles east of Cleveland was making national news both on and off line. Yet, not only were news stations posting updates, but students were also posting to Twitter telling about what was unfolding inside.

This article compiled tweets from students who were in the high school when the chaos errupted. It shows their fear; saddness; compassion and overall hope that everything is going to be ok. Too many times I think we look at Twitter as a way to share information, but we forget about the power social media holds in truly impacting an individual.

I’ll admit, as I read those tweets my heart breaks. I couldn’t imagine what those teenagers were going through at that time. How could they be possibly processing all of that information? Yet, they took comfort in something that was familiar to them – social media. They were sharing their experience as they do on a daily basis -this time it was just something so much bigger than any of us could ever comprehend.

Today’s tragedy and seeing it unfold in social media made me think about how social media has changed our world. In August of 2011, people tweeted about the accident that was unfolding at a Sugarland concert at the Indiana State Fair. And as with today’s tragegy in Chardon, people were using social media as a way to communicate – asking what happened, if everyone was ok and what was being done.

Everything that happened today is a reminder. A reminder that social media is human. There are people behind pages and handles, and that the true power of social media lies within that. These are the individuals telling the stories and having these experiences.  Social media gives people a voice, and it is a voice that can be heard by many.

Tonight, my thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families of this horrific event in Chardon.