On July 20th, 2012, 24 year old James Holmes walked into an Aurora, Colorado theater and murdered 12 people in cold blood. He injured another 70 theater goers before surrendering peacefully to authorities. During the chaos of the shooting, local news, those in the theater, families outside the theater and others began using Twitter and Facebook to share news, locate loved ones and try to find some understanding in a time of tragedy. Days later, the city of Aurora has come together, still utilizing social media to share information and come together as a community.
How social media helped, and continues helping, victims
During the immediate aftermath of the shooting, those at the theater began reaching out on social media when they could not reach family and friends. They used Facebook and Twitter to post, share information and try to find out where others were as well. As the chaos was unfolding, many family members found out their loved ones were okay by seeing these tweets and posts.
Information from news outlets and firsthand accounts also painted a picture for those not at the theater in those early morning hours as news crews and journalists descended onto the scene to begin covering it. Hash tags, such as #Aurora and #theatershooting took over Twitter and let others express their feelings, share news and stay connected as everything played out.
When sites like MySpace, Facebook and Twitter began hitting the Internet, nobody really understood what they could actually do in a moment such like this. In this case, social media brought people together in a way that was never thought possible in the beginning.
Social media now is letting those affected by the tragedy see the love, support and outpouring of help from those not only in the Aurora community but around the world. Those dealing with the aftermath of losing a loved one or watching someone fight for their lives can feel the support simply by heading to Facebook or Twitter.
Can social media be a powerful tool in times of crisis?
As a member of the Aurora, Colorado community as well as a frequent visitor to that particular theater, it was surreal to watch the events unfold on television and online through social media networks. Our local news networks, most notably our NBC affiliate (KUSA), stepped above the call of duty by trying to curtail the majority of false information spreading online on Twitter and Facebook. There due diligence in reporting facts and not sensationalizing the tragedy showed just how powerful a tool social media can be during a crisis. When used properly, and shared by others, social media like Twitter and Facebook can keep a community informed, bring loved ones together and stay on top of misinformation so easily spread online.
If you would like to reach out and help the victims of the Aurora theather shooting, please visit 9NEWS’ page for the latest ways to do what you can to show your love and support in this difficult time.