Today’s horrific Boston Marathon bombing was a tale told both through “old” media and social media, and indeed, the role of Twitter, Facebook and other social services in getting the news out seems to have reached parity at the very least.
But as Boston Marathon bombing news spread through social media sites across users (and the frustration at initial unconfirmed reports was predictably registered), we learned again how truly crucial social media has become in keeping people connected during a crisis.
As many of us first experienced on September 11th, one of the first reported bits of confusion had to do with cell phone service and whether Boston residents and visitors were being prevented from or advised not to use their mobile phones.
Eventually, Verizon confirmed that no government agency had ordered or even requested the limiting of cell service, and it was likely any interruption in service was due, as with on September 11th, to increased use:
Verizon Wireless to @cnbc: Not been asked by any government agency to turn down wireless service. Any reports to that effect are inaccurate.
— CNBC (@CNBC) April 15, 2013
In this void, however, people and loved ones affected by the Boston Marathon bombing were able to rely on social media to disseminate information — and while as we know, Twitter or Facebook is a good place to spread inadvertent erroneous information, it also shined today as an efficient way to boost a signal.
Not only did individuals rely on social media to get in direct contact after the Boston Marathon bombing, but agencies such as the Boston Police Department (BPD) were able to get real-time updates to residents, visitors and the media using social media services like Twitter.
Even now, social media during disasters tends to be used in an ad hoc way — but the Boston attacks also shows us what may be the future of disaster management for citizen connectivity.