While my last blog alluded to looking at the marketing techniques of the hit AMC series The Walking Dead (and I had intentions of doing so), I wanted to write my post a few days in advance to continually follow up on Friday night’s terrorist attacks in Paris, France (six different sites including a national stadium, a concert venue, and two restaurants). I first heard about the attacks from the trending topics and posts on my Twitter feed, and then immediately put on BBC News on my TV to stay up-to-date all of Friday night. Thanks to the presence and impact of television, radio, word of mouth, and – most importantly – social media, news spread like wild fire … and this fire will not be fully put out in the next few hours or even by the end of the weekend. Given the severity of this situation, I would say this will be an global hot topic for at least the next month or so.
While many around the world, like celebrities and musicians, send their condolences by expressing their prayers and thoughts online, I’d like to say that many are all talk, but no walk. Yes, you can type something online, click enter, and be on your merry way, carrying on with life as you normally would. I 100% agree with the NY Post journalist Lindsay Putnam, who wrote on Saturday, “The tragedy is just the latest to be appropriated by celebrities for so-called ‘hashtag activism,’ allowing them to do little more than hit ‘post’ and feel as though they’ve made an impact on the world” (http://nypost.com/2015/11/14/celebrity-support-for-paris-on-social-media-is-shallow-and-meaningless/). I think a good number of celebrities posted their thoughts and condolences to upkeep a good reputation, as if it were part of their job requirements; I think a question that can be asked is, Are they being genuine? Disagree with me all you want; it’s just my opinion.
Yet, their are others who are actually doing something proactive about the situation. Take for example, the Irish band U2, who paid their respects with the public to a manmade sidewalk memorial with bouquets of flowers near the Bataclan Theatre. This was after they announced that they would cancel their remaining Paris shows, including an HBO Special taping, in wake of the tragic turn of events (and the Foo Fighters also joined suit by canceling their four upcoming France shows). The Soundcloud link below the U2 photograph highlights a radio interview between lead singer Bono and RTE News. And superstar Madonna began her Saturday night concert in Stockholm with an emotional speech about the attacks and had a moment of silence, preceding opening with her hit “Like a Prayer.” According to USA Today, she considered canceling the show with 40,000+ fans, saying, “In many ways, I feel torn. Like why am I up here dancing and having fun when people are crying over the loss of their loved ones?” (http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/2015/11/15/madonna-cries-concert-pays-tribute-paris/75824894/).
Additionally to show support and solidarity for France during this time of, many countries and cities around the world highlighted their landmarks with the French flag’s colors as the Eiffel Tower itself went dark over the weekend. I commend this, especially as a New York City native who has a close connection to the 9/11 attacks that took place over a decade ago — terrorism is something that will never go away as our world continues to be filled with violence, and a majority of nations can relate to the sorrow and hurt that accompanies such violent and horrific crimes.
In terms of social media, Facebook launched the “Safety Check” feature on Saturday for Paris, in efforts to connect friends and family to potentially ensure safety and reassurance — the first time marking a non-natural disaster situation and the sixth time this feature had been deployed since its October 2014 inception. According to TIME, “Over four million people used the Safety Check tool to tell their friends they were OK, and over 360 million people got notifications that their friends were safe. Around the world, 78 million people had 183 million interactions relating to the attacks” that night (Atler) (http://time.com/4113410/paris-attacks-facebook-safety-check-beirut/). According to CNN Money, Facebook also “rolled out a new profile photo filter of the French flag as a way for people to show their support for France” on Saturday morning (Garcia, King, and Pallotta) (http://money.cnn.com/2015/11/13/media/facebook-safety-check-paris-attack/).
Additionally, Facebook has also been super impactful through a survivor’s, 22-year-old Isobel Bowdery, viral story/post, who quickly realized that the shootings were not part of the rock concert she was seeing at the Bataclan Theatre (89 were killed at that hostage site alone). According to Yahoo! News, Bowdery wrote in her firsthand account, “Shocked and alone, I pretended to be dead for over an hour, lying among people who could see their loved ones motionless,” she wrote, “Holding my breath, trying to not move, not cry — not giving those men the fear they longed to see. I was incredibly lucky to survive” (Taylor) (http://news.yahoo.com/south-african-woman-shared-harrowing-164807733.html). “She also used the post to honor those who helped her through the ordeal, both during the attack and after her escape, … and paid tribute to the scores of people killed in the attack — ‘who weren’t as lucky, who didn’t get to wake up today and to all the pain that their friends and families are going through'” (Taylor). The post also included a picture of the blood-stained shirt she wore during the attacks — as of Sunday at 4 p.m., the post has been shared more than 6.54 million times and has over 2.2 million likes. When I read this and saw the shirt, both just made me really see that this was and is still such a horrible thing to have occurred and all the more real to process. I mean I can’t even imagine being in her position in that moment, scared for her life and not knowing if it was going to end right then & there when just moments before she was enjoying a concert on a typical Friday night, and having the bravery to share her personal story for the world to read and share.
On Twitter, the trending hashtag #rechercheParis, which translates to “search Paris,” was also used for users to connect with friends and family in trying to locate where they were; many posted pictures of those MIA, in hopes of hearing back with a hopeful response. According to CNN Money, “by Saturday evening, more than 64,000 tweets had used [the hashtag]” (Garcia, King, and Pallotta) (http://money.cnn.com/2015/11/13/media/facebook-safety-check-paris-attack/). And due to the immediate curfew to stay indoors at all costs in the state of emergency, natives also trended #PorteOuverte (which translates to “Open Doors”), as they opened their doors and homes to strangers looking for shelter and safety moments immediately following the attacks; according to CNN Money, “Within 10 hours, there were about 1 million tweets [with that hashtag]” (Garcia, King, and Pallotta). Thanks to Twitter’s latest recent feature called “Moments” on the home page, which hones in on global stories and events taking place at the moment that we should care and talk about — i.e. people all around the world being immediately kept up-to-date on articles, posts, and live-streaming what was going on in Paris right at that exact moment, without having an actual Twitter account per say.
Although featured on all platforms, although more predominately on Instagram, the photo below, designed by French artist Jean Jullien, went viral through reposts by the general public and celebrities alike. According to a Skype interview with Slate, Jullien said, “I just arrived where I’m staying and I turned on the French radio and I heard about what was happening. So I just sort of started checking on my friends and family through social media, and everybody was saying ‘I’m OK.’ And just because this is what I do, I draw, I reacted graphically, just drawing something spontaneously with pen and paper and then sharing it as a raw reaction. With so much violence and tragedy—we just want a bit of peace” (Neyfakh) (http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2015/11/14/paris_shooting_eiffel_tower_peace_sign_an_interview_with_artist_jean_jullien.html).
Newspapers worldwide, as seen below from over the weekend, have a universal message and theme on the front pages despite the language barriers.
According to Buzzfeed News, AirBnB “launched a disaster response tool to help those stranded in Paris easily find free housing through the AirBnB platforms” on Saturday, which will be in effect until Monday (Klinkenberg) (http://www.buzzfeed.com/brendanklinkenberg/startsups-rise-to-the-occasion#.lb9JM3gq6). And Google offered free international calls to France via its communication tool Hangouts, which is available on iOS, Androids, and the web; this was the second time this was launched, the first being after the Nepal earthquake (Klinkenberg).
Here at Siena, a candlelight vigil was held Monday afternoon to honor those who lost their lives in Paris, as well as those in the Beirut bombings (I attended this to show my support and give my prayers). This was the second vigil held by the Siena community within the last year for France. Local News Channel 13 came to campus and did a report (with video, photos, and a little written report) on the vigil, which can be seen here at http://wnyt.com/article/stories/S3965061.shtml?cat=300 .
Withouts social media, how could people get in contact with one another?? How could someone like me in upstate NY, USA know what was going in the French capital when I don’t have any personal connections living/visiting there?? In this case – although it’s horrible and awful – social media helped raise awareness and bring people together in solidarity for a cause that many know all to well nowadays.
A very detailed report from Yahoo! News (Monday): http://news.yahoo.com/france-bombs-islamic-state-hq-police-conduct-150-095838956.html