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Social media and how the world reacted to the tragedy in Paris

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On Friday, November 13, Paris was rocked by a series of terrorist attacks, and the world joined hands to lift the people of France to their feet. While I’ll be the first to admit that I often lambast social media for its seeming frivolity, it is in moments of tragedy when the power and the humanity of social media and the people who give it life are at its peak. In the moments, minutes, and now hours after the first attacks, various platforms were used by civilian reporters, supporters, and harbingers of hope who have managed to remind us that even in the darkest display of (in)human capacity, the worldwide community has an unbreakable spirit.

Face à l'effroi, il y a une Nation qui sait se défendre, sait mobiliser ses forces et, une fois encore, saura vaincre les terroristes.

— François Hollande (@fhollande) November 13, 2015

On Friday evening, Twitter became the go-to platform for many seeking real-time coverage of the events unfolding across the French capital. Unfortunately, Periscope, Twitter’s video platform that theoretically allowed users to share footage of happenings, crashed numerous times due to the enormous volume of traffic it experienced. On the other hand, Twitter Moments has become headline central, with a disclaimer warning viewers of sensitive content before revealing the top story, which reads, “The worst terror attacks in France in decades claimed the lives of more than 120 people and led French President Francois Holland to declare a state of emergency.”

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The feed, filled with breaking alerts, warnings, and video footage, has become a critical source of information, both for journalists and for those looking to protect themselves or their loved ones from what continues to be a state of mayhem in Paris.

And while social media is doubtless an integral source for reporting in the digital age, it has also become a repository for emotion and sheer humanity. The hashtag  now trends on Paris, with millions of tweets voicing messages of support and love for those affected, hundreds of thousands of miles away. A peace symbol stylized to reflect the famous Eiffel Tower landmark has also made the rounds across a number of platforms, and a number of people, including Elton John, have shared this famous Martin Luther King Jr. quote: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”


A photo posted by Kim Kardashian West (@kimkardashian) on

On Facebook, a safety check has been activated so that family members can ensure that their nearest and dearest are safe. “Quickly find and connect with friends in the area. Mark them safe if you know that they’re OK,” the page reads. Users can also change their profile pictures to display a French flag overlay. But one of the most important trends on social media this morning is a reminder that #MuslimsAreNotTerrorist. Soon after the attacks, a number of accusations quickly emerged that blamed refugees for bringing the attacks upon Paris, or worse yet, blaming all Muslims for the ongoing violence. But a 19-year-old made a hard-hitting point that has since been retweeted nearly 70,000 times:

After all, instilling more hatred seems like the least productive thing to do when there is so much at stake.

Instead, we can do what a stadium full of French soccer fans did as they were evacuated from an ongoing match — sing the national anthem, or simply say, “Paris, je t’aime.”

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