Social Media, Technology and Tragedy: On YouTube, Facebook, MySpace Today We Are All Hokies

by Marianne Richmond on April 21, 2007

While people cope with the tragic events at Virginia Tech in many different ways. On YouTube, Facebook, and MySpace, Virgnnia Tech students and alumni and students from other schools and universities are organizing groups, creating heart wrenching videos, sharing stories and memories, and otherwise embracing each other by embracing the technology that enables Today We Are All Hokies.

One blog lists the shooting victims and their MySpace pages….it received 26 Diggs. Students set up a web sites that memorializes the victims and invites students to share their thoughts and feelings and provides information about where to find support.

One Facebook group with 4004 members was created to petition Facebook to change the colors to the Virginia Tech schools colors for 62 days. There are two asterisks for this group. One, a reminder that there is lots of pain in the world and a wish that "there be a change forever in our hearts as we promise to not ignore the world’s pain."

And the second, **Does anyone know how to send a message to facebook to actually request this? If so, please do so; we’d appreciate it!

Ellen Lee, posting on The Tech Chronicles at SFGate.com, writes that the Palo Alto’s Facebook group has become a place to not only debate the issues of gun control, race and alienation but also the appropriateness of creating online groups about thr Virginia Tech shootings. However she notes that one of the most popular groups is A tribute to those who passed at Virginia Tech; as of today that group has 343, 635 members.

Most of the over 500 Facebook groups have names such as Boston Candlelight Vigil for our friends at Virginia Tech, Canada Supports Virginia Tech, Columbine, Virginia Tech!!! School Shoots Our Hearts.

The tragic events at Virginia Tech have highlighted the way that technology is changing every aspect of the way that we communicate with each other from being a lightening fast source of information to the more personal side of the personal web, helping people cope with the incomprehensible events and aftermath of 32 murders.

Technology brings these events to us like never before through live images from mobile devices and video cameras. Amanda Lenhart a senior researcher at the Pew Internet & American Life Project notes that "Thanks to the portability and speed of today’s technology, the students’ shots are likely to become some of the "defining images" of the tragedy, says Amanda Lenhart, a senior researcher at the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which monitors high-tech culture.

But then as we have to process this and seek to understand, technology also allows us to reach out and express our thoughts and feelings while listening to others where physical proximity is not a requirement. This is the personal web. Dion Hinchliffe’s definitive blog post from January, Social Media Goes Mainstream defines mainstream as when his grandparents and their grandchildren are doing whatever is under discussion. He asks "what are the compelling data points that tell us that social media is changing the landscape of communication, collaboration, and personal interaction."

The murders at Virginia Tech were horrific, the senseless loss of life an epic tragedy that makes us all weep as we watch, listen and read. The way this tragedy was experienced is one of the compelling data points.

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