I’m so saddened by today’s events. As a runner, I know what type of disorientation the body (and mind) experiences after such a long distance. Then to have your personal victory met with the harrowing echoes of screams and shards of glass flying at you – the experience is unimaginable. The outpour of support, prayers and outreach has been encouraging and I think social media has played a big role in facilitating that support.


pray for bostonSocial media networks such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube brought us the news as it happened. And just as quickly, these same networks created a sub-network of people who were willing to help in some way.  Today, Mashable reported that the Boston community has built out a massive Google Doc indexing homes and space availability for anyone who has been displaced by today’s events.   On Facebook, over 16,000 people are talking about the Boston Marathon and #prayforboston has been trending internationally on Twitter all afternoon. The topic has quickly risen as a ‘popular’ topic, proving that social media brings people together at lightning speeds.

I think it’s easy to forget how powerful social media is.  Throughout our coursework we talk about ways that social media can be used to market a product or communicate a selling point. Today’s events though underlined how well social media can not only inform the masses but also organize a coalition of people who are willing to help others in need.

As coverage over the next few days unfolds, I think it will be interesting to see how our own social media networks flood with thoughts about what happened, questions asking why  and reflections about how grateful individuals are in their own lives. It’s events like these that remind me that social media networks have changed the way consumers access, talk about and react to news.  While social networking can sometimes be met with criticism or misunderstanding, I hope people don’t forget how these networks facilitate fast response to such a tragic event.

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16 Responses to #prayforboston

  1. jhuck says:

    Very timely post and yes, it was wonderful to see all the people in Boston stepping up to help the victims, even offering a place to stay if they were stranded. Social media was also good for a way for those down at the event to communicate to friends and family that they were okay. I had one friend running it and another friend who is an anchor at WBZ covering it. My runner friend finished quickly and out of there about a half hour before the first blast, but my other friend was right across from where it went off. You could tell he was devastated by it. I think social media will be invaluable going forward getting the word out on blood drives, and whatever else the victims need. I was also encouraged that so many people were adamant that they would be at next year’s marathon, sort of a social media call to action against the cowards who did this.

  2. Stuart Haack says:

    Absolutely spot on. When people think about social media, often the most prevailing opinion is how vapid and useless it is. And indeed, when people post images of their morning coffee or a particular emotion without explanation, I would tend to agree. However, yesterday when I first heard about the events at the Boston Marathon, even before I searched the news stream on Google, I went to my Twitter stream. I follow a lot of reporters, activists and political individuals, so Twitter gives a more real-time, personal experience of what is actually going on. News agencies fear reporting too much too soon sometimes, which is just responsible journalism. But on a Twitter feed or Facebook page, there are no checks and balances. No avoidance of bias. So you’re getting a very real, emotional opinion seconds from the moment the event happens, whether you like that opinion or not. I think we all saw the power of social media during the Arab spring, and I think it will continue to play a defining role in the way people consume news and information for decades (or centuries?) to come. Thanks for the post. And #PrayForBoston.

  3. lynnhoff17 says:

    It is indeed easy to forget how powerful social media is, or to write it off as “vapid and useless” as Stu notes. But times like these, when social media creates coordination and strength in response that might otherwise be impossible, makes up for all the times that #snooki has trended on Twitter, I think.

    I think a challenge for business users of social media in times like these is not to appear tone deaf and ignorant of the day’s events, but at the same time avoid looking as if they’re taking advantage of the situation as a promotional opportunity. I know our social media manager struggled with how we should acknowledge, with Massachusetts General, Brigham & Women’s and Harvard close by to the tragedy and employing so many of our members.

    Ultimately our social media manager posted, as many business users, did, that our hearts and thoughts were with Boston. But she also added a link to help people trying to confirm the safety of loved ones in the area. I thought this was an excellent idea because not only did the post acknowledge those directly and physically affected by the tragedy, but helped those not in Boston but affected as well.


  4. Tori Bass says:

    Hi Rachael,

    Great post! You mentioned the google indexing page to help people who are displaced find some place to stay. Google also created an index page for people searching for people in Boston, or for people in Boston to register themselves so that their friends and family could find them. This was especially useful given the fact that cellular service in Boston was cut off in order to prevent any further remote detonations. The people indexing site was up and running within an hour after the bombings occurred, which only goes to show how much our society now relies on social media and the internet, and just how useful these resources are to us, especially during a time of crisis.

  5. capeyton says:

    I have always felt like tragedy has been the true test and showcase of the wonder of social media. Twitter and Facebook really come to life in the face of widespread concern and action.

    In addition to just plain old “doing the right thing”, Google earns major Corporate Social Responsibility points for championing such a necessary and noble effort to secure the safety and well-being of those affected by the tragedy. My guess is that we will see tweets and facebook updates referenced as “sources” in the 24 hr news cycle as it has become increasingly prevalent that social media platforms “get the news first”. Great post, Rachel!

  6. amonda says:


    You did a wonderful job in presenting the value of social media in terms of its outreach effects and personalization of a horrific tragedy such as that of the events in Boston. While I know this was a difficult subject to discuss, you did a great job in articulating both your sorrow for the persons affected, and how the employment of social media helps not only those of us on the outside looking in to garner some semblance of priority in our lives during tragedies of this nature, but also for those who need to reach out to others for comfort.

    Thank you for the well-written and insightful perspective.

    Al Monda

  7. Nikolos Gurney says:

    Thank you for the great post and reminder to keep an open perspective. It is easy to get caught up in the negative side of things, social media included. Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ are not perfect, nor are the people that use them, however they do still have a lot of potential as social tools and maybe that is one lesson we should collectively take from this tragedy, not to take our amazing resources for granted. If everyone appreciated the value of these tools a little more perhaps they wouldn’t be so frivolous in their usage. Then again, it is probably the prolific (and frivolous) usage that makes them work so well.

  8. cmcoleman says:

    Great post. It’s amazing how quickly social media was pulled into effective use.

  9. svilladelgado says:

    Hi Rachael,
    Thank you for writing this post. I am in shock over this horrific act of violence, but am also inspired by everyone who came together to help the victims. There’s a FB group, Runners United to Remember, that’s organizing a virtual run event and encouraged runners to wear their event shirts today. In times like these, it’s great to come together as community. I went on a run yesterday afternoon – and as corny as this may sound, I dedicated my run to all the victims.
    ~ Sheila

  10. calandry says:

    Rachael, I’m so glad you dedicated your post to the power of social media in crisis. The Boston Marathon bombings have truly brought out the best in people on various social media sites. With the exception of some conspiracy theorists sharing misinformation, social media sites have been a way to share real time information and mobilize those who want to help. When I heard about the Google doc dedicated to helping displaced visitors find lodging, I thought it was amazing. It truly is a testament to how technology can be used to bring out the best in people. My hope is that the outpouring of love, support and prayers doesn’t end too soon and people continue to use social media for this and other noble causes.

  11. vyoung says:

    Hi Rachael,

    Thank you for the very moving and timely post. As someone who lived in Boston for 20 years and, who walked Boylston Street countless times, my family and I are in shock and probably will be for days or weeks to come over what happened to our beloved city. I actually used the people finder Google tool to find a friend of mine who ran in the Marathon yesterday. She fortunately is alive and well.

    Great Topic!


  12. kcn13 says:

    Thank you for the timely and great post. I can’t agree with you more. SM can be quite effective in these situations. I first saw the news yesterday when I was heading to the airport to return from a business trip. I had immediately texted one of my dearest friends who was in Boston with her daughter visiting colleges. I was beyond worry and concern when I didn’t hear back from her over a couple of hours worth of time. I combed my FB page as well as Instagram, since she is an avid user of both, and found that many of our mutual friends had similar concerns. Turns out that she was on an airplane returning home at the time and landed with a tons of voicemails and FB messages on her phone. Long story short, when I couldn’t reach my friend, the first placed I turned to was our social network to try to find her. So somehow, instinctively I made that connection that FB is a trusted source of information. So for all the annoying bouts of nonsense FB posts, my ability to find critical information during a tragedy did make me think twice about social media and the positive impact it can have.


  13. aflores says:

    Thanks for this post – it reminded us of the power of FB, Google and other social media. As a former Red Cross employee, I can also appreciate the improvements in tracking missing people and how far the organization has come since 2011. Red Cross is keeping with the times and through their http://safeandwell.communityos.org/cms/index.php social media outreach they eased worries.

    Google and FB did a great job – Silicon Valley’s innovation was felt worldwide during tragic events.


  14. Allison Cordova says:

    Hi Rachael,

    Great post and very timely. Like you I was so saddened about the events, especially hearing this happened at the finish line of a race. I cannot imagine, especially with the level of exhaustion your body and mind are already experiencing. I think social media has revolutionized the way we communicate. National news spread faster now thanks to Facebook and Twitter…everything from Michael Jackson’s death…to the new pope..to the tragedy in Boston. The information flows incredibly fast…and most time it is accurate. I can definitely see the advantages it has brought to how we communicate in our society.

  15. Sarah Harris says:

    Hey Rachael,
    Great post on a tragic situation. I too was just amazed at how many people the news said would finish the race (and they are pushing themselves faster than I can even dream of running in this race) and keep running or walking to go donate blood which usually would not be allowed from what I know. Amazing humanity emerged from this tragedy. I find that these days, I find news out from reading it on social media more than regular news. Partly because I’m a little addicted to social media. The other reason is I feel I cannot trust regular news channels any more.

    It truly disappointed me to see how wrong the “reputable” news channels were. While it may not be on the level of the terror of the act, contributing to people’s panic and feeding it is contributing to the problem. One paper, whom I will not name, was reporting exaggerated numbers and a potential suspect the first day. With the details that they were printing it could have sparked hate crimes, or it’s certainly feeding hatred even if it didn’t emerge that day. Turns out the people who did this weren’t anything close to what they reported. I get it, news is out to beat the other guys in readership and advertising dollars, but responsibility in reporting has crossed the line too many times lately.

    So did you sign up for a new race to do yet to run for Boston?