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02/06/2017  |  BY SMACK

Social Media for SolidaritySocial Media for Solidarity

We've all sat behind our laptops or mobile screens watching in horror as updates of terrorist attacks across the globe unfold. The atrocities of the Manchester attacks just last week saw world leaders and performers share their disbelief and tributes on Twitter immediately. When checking your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, stories of horror have been impossible to ignore or avoid.

Social media is the millennial's immediate response to current affairs, whether local or global. In today's fast-paced world, we turn to our Facebook timeline and our Twitter feeds to find out what's happening in the world, as it's quicker than going home and turning on the news. We look to Twitter's trending hashtags to find out what the most important issues of the day are. And we turn to Instagram to find out exactly what that news looks like. But as well as providing a news commentary for the actual events, social media has played a far more important role than that in these tragic times.


Social media provides us with a platform to share our raw, honest and original feelings as they are felt. It also brings people together and allows us to come together as a community. The hashtag #RoomForManchester quickly became a trending topic last week to offer help to distraught people after the tragedy. Facebook has given us the option to change our profile picture to that of the affected country's flag. And we were able to share messages and love of support to people we've never even met, and never will. A powerful tool in testing times.

As well as providing us with a space for sharing support, it also gave those actually affected in the attacks a lifeline. #PorteOuverte ('Open Door', in French) trended on Twitter following the Paris attacks; Parisians offered out their homes to the injured, and those with nowhere safe to go for the night. Those watching the terrorist attacks unfold from destinations far away were able to rest knowing their loved ones were safe thanks to Facebook's safety check-in tool, which was activated for a non-natural event for the first time after these attacks.


The goal of a terrorist is to spread hate and fear. Unfortunately, this is also done pretty easily via social media. Shortly after the Manchester attacks, social media was swamped with false reports of missing children and other seemingly-intentional hoaxes, which highlights how easy it is for lies to spread online and proves the difficulty these platforms face when addressing fake news. Though the world of social has provided the ideal platform for defiance. For telling those aiming to threaten our way of life that we will not be beaten, and we will not live in fear. What greater response could there be to show this, than the people of Brussels' response to a state of emergency - sharing pictures of cats, of course.

Terrorism's greatest power is to distract us from what's important; to make us hate through war and segregation. Maybe it's the role of social media to act as a reminder. Take 'the most London response to a terrorist attack ever' - a passerby exclaiming 'You ain't no Muslim, bruv!', leading to that very phrase trending across social channels in the UK, following the Leytonstone attack. Such a simple message had an incredible impact; it illustrated defiance and true, modern British spirit against racism.


The greatest weapon social media has against terrorism is that it provides the world with the opportunity for solidarity. Emotion spreads via social, but so does courage and hope. Whilst many have expressed their cynicism around a lot of the social media reactions to terror; dubbing it slactivism, or even 'selective grieving', the significant impact it has had can't be denied. It's been a platform to support, share and save lives.