Last Thursday, 148 people at Garissa University in Kenya were brutally killed in a terrorist attack. Without Twitter, we would never have known their names and they would have been forgotten by all except their family members.
Because of social media, however, we are given the opportunity to grieve with the mourners, to express support, to raise awareness about the violence raging between Somalia and Kenya. We are shown pictures of each and every person killed, people who have survived, and the grieving family members so that they will be remembered.
A service is being held tonight in Uhuru Park in Nairobi, Kenya, where mourners will light candles and write notes to their lost loved ones. Those of us who cannot attend in person will most likely be able to join via social media, ensuring that these victims will live on in all our memories.
There are people, of course, who dismiss the idea that social media has power. Some people wave away the strength that social media brings to the individual and the masses. Anyone with a phone and internet access (which is a quickly growing number of individuals these days) can tweet to the entire world. We are able to see things from the peoples’ point of view, instead of the government’s; we are able to get an inside perspective, we are able to provide aid more quickly, and this connects us in a way that wasn’t possible even a decade ago.
What if Twitter had been active when September 11th happened? What about 3-11, in Madrid? Could more victims have been rescued? Could some of it have been prevented? Would there be more closure for families who are still grieving over never getting to say their goodbyes?
Now we’ve started receiving first-hand accounts and images from the earthquakes in China, the London riots, and other world events not covered in detail by world news, which not only allowed those outside the events to send aid, but coordinated help and searches for missing victims.
Social media, and especially Twitter, has helped us reach outside the bounds of our own countries and into the lives of individuals across the world. People from Africa and Asia are in contact with people in Europe, Australia, and the Americas, providing a wealth of first-hand interaction which enlarges community.
I think grieving via the medium of social media works because it allows us to share our grief, to get the words out of ourselves and into the world, which makes it slightly less painful to bear. It helps to see others’ sympathy, to know that there are people who care, even if you’ve never met. Social media has allowed us all to share the burden of grief together, which recalls to mind the old adage, “grief shared is halved, and joy is doubled.” By grieving together, we are easing our agony, even if it’s just for a moment.
I hope that the hashtag ‘#147NotJustANumber‘ continues to be used in the coming days — we need to remember these precious individuals whose lives, hopes and dreams were cut short by a senseless death. Please support their remaining family and friends, and keep these people in your heart. They should not be forgotten.
Image Credits: Carl de Souza / AFP
— Brian Inganga (@BrianInganga) April 7, 2015