The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

All in 140 characters

Twitter has incredible value during times of national tragedy.

I was in The Spectator office when I first heard about the Boston Marathon bombings. As with most terrorist acts, there was a lot of initial confusion and uncertainty. It took a few hours for people to begin piecing together exactly what happened and how many were injured.

When I got home, I simultaneously turned on television news and opened my laptop to check online news sites. But after some time of seeing the same stories on multiple sites, I decided to go on Twitter and see what kind of discussion was happening there.

Between brief periods of watching the horrifying footage on television, I kept my eyes on Twitter for the better part of two hours. Updates were coming in on my feed at least every minute, if not quicker. The discussion using #boston was too fast to keep up with.

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Most of the people I follow on Twitter are comedians or friends of mine. I do follow some news outlets and sportswriters, but mostly I have viewed Twitter as a great way to hear some of the funniest people in the world tell great jokes.

But even if I had wanted to go on Twitter that day to escape from the bombing coverage, I would not have been able to. Many of the comedians I follow were also following the news closely and tweeted personal thoughts and re-tweeted the latest news from reputable sources, including The Boston Globe and The
Washington Post

But this wasn’t what proved to me the beauty of Twitter in these situations. It was how people came together to help those who needed it the most. The humanity on display that day on Twitter was something I will remember for a long time.

People re-tweeted messages giving addresses for Boston residents to go to if they wanted a place to feel safe. People opened up their homes to their fellow man almost immediately and the people I follow passed these offers on in hopes of aiding those in danger.

People were able to alert friends and family that they were safe, hopefully saving traumatic hours of worry for some. Newspapers posted the number of the Boston Police Department for people to call if they needed help or had tips on the identity of the bomber(s). Comedians linked to the Red Cross donation page to make it easy for people to give blood to Boston-area hospitals.

I was depressed when I learned of the bombings. So many sickening acts of violence have occurred in this country in the past year that it made it difficult for me not to rail about the sad state of humanity. I was just beaten down, sad and not positive for our future.

But then I saw Twitter and a lot of my faith in humanity was restored after these few tragic hours. No matter how many people do unspeakable things, there are always so many more who will run to help or do whatever they can to give comfort to victims. I was touched by what I read that day.

I wish it did not take horrible events like the Marathon bombings for me to gain a new perspective on the inherent goodness of humans. But the times when our worst compulsions and actions are on display are often the times when our best comes out as well.

I still love Twitter for the comedians and their jokes. But I have gained a newfound respect for the medium in the past two weeks.

It is amazing what you can do and how many people you can touch with 140 characters.



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