I have been watching with great interest the role that social media has played in helping society in the aftermath of disasters and tragedies. Every year that passes, more people get connected online, more people interact, more people expand their social networks and connections. That creates a mesh, a sort of fabric between us. In normal times, we trade cat photos, we laugh at silly memes, we irritate each other with odd political posts, and we generally act as you would expect a neighborhood of hundreds of millions of people to act.
Under stress, however, that social fabric transformed into a glue. It strengthened the community, helped people to connect and check in with each other, and accelerated the healing process at a pace faster than ever. Immediately after the marathon attacks, not only did news move faster than ever, but so did our ability to adapt, from offering support to shouting down misinformation. Within a few hours of the marathon attacks, two charitable funds (One Boston and TUGG) sprung up and collected millions of dollars in donations to help the injured, powered by social sharing. As people heal, they share their experiences to help others heal as well, at an unprecedented scale, sharing everything and anything that helps them to heal.
This gives me great hope for the future of social media as an integral part of our society’s self-healing and coping mechanisms. Yes, there will always be polarizing jerks who have something negative to say, but when the defecation hits the ventilation, our innate nature to step up and help each other is only strengthened by the technologies we immerse ourselves in. As technologies advance such as wearable computing, our ability to respond effectively to accidents, disasters, and attacks will only improve.
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