Snapchat’s #WestBankLive story feature shows the real power of social media

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Maurizio Pesce/Flickr
If the purpose of social media is to connect the world in a meaningful, it seems fair to say that today, social media succeeded. July 9’s Live Story feature on Twitter covered the West Bank, offering the world a rare glimpse into a part of the world that is too often wracked with violence and covered only by camera crews of media outlets with their own stories to tell. But with #WestBankLive, inhabitants of the region were given a broad platform from which to broadcast their voices, and were met with overwhelming support across the world.

#WestBankLive i need more people like this in my life; ones who aren't afraid to go into dabke mode in a sec

Just two days prior, a Live Feature covering Tel Aviv met with considerable backlash on Twitter, with critics claiming that Snapchat’s timing was in poor taste — last July 7, an Israeli attack on Gaza left 1,462 Palestinian civilians dead and 1,500 children orphaned. Following outraged comments across various social media channels, it seems as though Snapchat attempted appeasement by telling a story from the Palestinian side of things on the West Bank. Regardless of their motivation for the subsequent feature, both Snapchat and Twitter users seemed pleased by Snapchat’s Thursday decision.

I love the fact that there's an actual Krusty Krab in Ramallah ☺️ #WestBankLive

— نورا (@alzabba) July 9, 2015

The platform was flooded by rarely seen, organic content, created by Snapchat users both in the West Bank and around the world, who celebrated the spotlight. Everything, from geopolitical commentary, to scenes of high security, to soccer matches, to day-to-day life that is so infrequently captured by mainstream media, was sourced and shared by Snapchat users. Live Story features, which are already very popular on Twitter, drawing some 20 million viewers every 24 hours, now seem to have found a higher calling in their latest functionality in the Middle Eastern conflict.

"This is the separation wall" "This is our view from work every day" this is #WestBankLive pic.twitter.com/nflHezBOwB

— Ayesha (@AyeshaTape) July 9, 2015

Children playing soccer in a refugee camp #WestBankLive pic.twitter.com/Fy5N98hP1p

— Jenna (@Chezmoihoney) July 9, 2015

Thank you Snapchat for letting the world see what Palestinians go through daily with being walled in. #WestBankLive pic.twitter.com/46Rv4vOxif

— lebanese problems (@LebaneseProblem) July 9, 2015

While the feed, like all Snapchat content, will disappear at the end of the day, this 24-hour period has been pivotal in offering West Bank insiders the opportunity to share their lives, and outsiders the chance to experience a reality that too often seems like a distant alternate reality.

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