The Aurora tragedy and social media: fostering community amidst chaosArticle added by Amy McIlwain on July 30, 2012
Amy McIlwain

Amy McIlwain

Denver, CO

Joined: August 26, 2010

This summer has been a roller coaster for Coloradans. From the pinnacles of human greatness to the deepest of human ills, we all — directly or indirectly — feel the ripples.

The turbulence commenced with the raging wildfires that devoured hundreds of homes and led to thousands of evacuations throughout the state. However, subsequent outpourings of charity and love for those affected slowly helped the morale shift from devastation to optimism. The elevation peaked as we proudly watched a handful of local athletes earn their tickets to the most prestigious athletic stage in the world, the Olympics.

The elation has once again sunk with the recent unspeakable tragedy, the Aurora shootings, that recently unfolded in our backyard. As of now, we are all simply trying to find solace and somehow get our feet on the ground once again.This isn’t the first time we’ve encountered a major tragedy in this community. In fact, this recent situation is quite reminiscent of the Columbine High School massacre that occurred 13 years ago.

Outside of Colorado, I know communities throughout the world can relate to the all-too-familiar grief accompanied by senseless loss. During the more recent tragedies, however, I’ve noticed some glaring differences from those of the past: the razor-sharp timeliness of reporting, the increased social intimacy through blogging, Facebook, and Twitter, and the amplified outpourings of love and support. All due to social media.

Let me create an illustration.On the morning of July 20th, 2012, I logged onto my Facebook page and saw endless streams of people offering their prayers and love to the victims. On my homepage, I also saw blood drives taking place, people organizing prayer vigils, news updates and images of community members uniting on site and online to console those in need.

On Twitter, I read minute-by-minute updates on the latest news of the shootings — from victim updates to local road closures. I also read hundreds of messages offering condolences and @messages to the communities and victims. Four days after the shooting, I learned from Facebook that Christian Bale (Batman himself) came to visit the victims in the hospital after an online campaign that rallied for him to come. President Barack Obama and several Denver Broncos also came to pay respects to those affected.

Warner Brothers also recently donated a large sum of money to the victims. Images and comments of these notable and heartfelt interactions are circulating all over social media, producing waves of support amidst the tragedy. Throughout this series of highs and lows in our community, social media has been the primary channel through which we’ve communicated. It has provided us with the real-time news, information, support and solace needed to help the victims. It has also given us a place to process our own thoughts and emotions.

In this day and age, we can learn quicker, bind closer and foster a sense of community like never before — and it’s been helpful on a whole new level. As a proponent of social media for a myriad reasons, I couldn’t be more pleased to see it acting as such a powerful force in bringing individuals, communities and otherwise unrelated factors together to help those in need. Our hearts and sincere thoughts and prayers go out to anyone who has been affected by the recent tragedy, and we hope that social media continues to drive optimism, love and support to those who need it the most.
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