It’s hard to think of our world prior to the introduction of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I would say Twitter is the most important of all of them in terms of spreading news about events happening in real time. Social media has allowed for consumers of media to have a front-row seat to tragedies, accidents and celebration happening around the world.
During the manhunt for the Boston marathon bombers, I was able to access a live video stream from a news reporter’s iPhone via Twitter. The reporter realized he could not carry an entire camera crew into an area where one of the suspects was reported to be cornered by police, so he simply whipped out his phone and began streaming to his Twitter followers.
On Saturday, Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crash landed at the San Francisco International Airport. Two people were killed and over 150 injured, but some of the passengers emerged from the airplane unscathed. Many of those who came out without injuries automatically turned to Twitter to post images of what they had just encountered, which was something that didn’t surprise me one bit. This is because Twitter allows users to send pictures and post them publicly, while Facebook and Instagram are a bit more closed off.
A Fox News reporter who was reporting on the crash noted that “It was inevitable that Twitter would play a role in this.” He was referring to the aftermath and the collection of clues that would give investigators a detailed account of what really happened. Soon after the crash, there were multiple passengers who tweeted pictures of the charred plane from less than 500 feet away–which is impressive—mainly because news networks would not be allowed anywhere near the scene of an accident.
Twitter was introduced in 2006 but didn’t really reach the height of its popularity until after the introduction of the iPhone and the slew of other smartphones that followed. In 2008, a man tweeted from the site of another airplane accident after his plane skidded off the runway in Denver. Twitter was brought to national attention after it played key roles in the Occupy Wall Street movement, the Arab Spring, and the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
It’s no surprise Twitter is becoming increasingly useful in these situations. It allows the entire world to witness something that happened moments ago, simply by searching a hashtag or refreshing their feed. As Apple and other companies build Twitter directly into their smartphone and laptop operating systems, expect the social networking site to be even more crucial in gathering data and evidence following an event.