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Tragedy and Twitter

The recent tragedy in Kansas City is another example of how more and more we turn to social media in times of tragedy. After Chiefs player Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend and fatally shot himself outside the team’s stadium. The NFL kept fans updated on the situation via social media, particularly Twitter. The organization issued the following statement and shared through tweets from @NFL:

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the Chiefs and the families and friends of those who lost their lives in this terrible tragedy, We have connected the Chiefs with our national team of professional counselors to support both the team and the families of those affected. We will continue to provide assistance in any way that we can.”

Fellow NFL players and teams have also used Twitter to react to the news.  Tim Tebow tweeted:

Tim Tebow

Wow… Unbelievable tragedy. My prayers go out to the entire Chiefs organization and their families.

Not only are these Tweets a source of information for the NFL community, Twitter reactions have become a part of our news narrative. A google search of “Twitter” and “tragedies” results in over six pages of news sources writing about the Twitter reactions to the Belcher tragedy. Janet Sternberg, a communications and media studies professor at Fordham University, describes the desire to share emotions over social media, “It’s very personal. It’s unfiltered. The emotions are very real and that is very attractive to people.”
Social media will undoubtedly play an increasing role in the way we deal with tragedy. But does the need to share when a story is trending lead to messages that are half-engaged and lacking true sympathy?
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