Social networking sites provide a vast platform for the entire world - the every-day person. You want people to hear you out? Create a blog or go on Facebook; send a Tweet or make a YouTube video. This online social boom is unlike anything we've ever witnessed before because it provides a podium for the people. However, a fascinating aspect of this craze is the manner in which we exercise our voices during times of political upheaval, terrorism, global disasters and other catastrophes.
Within seconds the story of the Woolwich massacre was out, broadcast across hundreds of news channels. Yet the most powerful spread of a news piece comes from our favourite social sites. The story passes from person to person, changed and repackaged ever so slightly as it travels down the line; opinions are thrown around, judgments are ridiculed and defended, people cry out in demand to be heard. Everyone feels the need to say something and assert such-and-such a view. In the wake of the Woolwich attack Twitter and Facebook were inundated with condemnations of the Muslim community; thankfully there were some wise voices out there asking people to hold back their prejudice and ignorance. The way in which people react to such events is somewhat terrifying: the entire world logs on to their computers and babbles on without really knowing what they are talking about.
It is fascinating to watch the Internet explode with millions of posts as everyone wants to be absolutely certain that they've weighed in, spread the word and asserted themselves. It appears to me as a catharsis of sorts: an online cleansing of the mind, if you will. People can't be quiet in such cases. They don't know what to do; they're shocked, angry, confused and want to do or say something - even if it's wrong - in order to feel like they are dealing with the situation, to feel like they've played a part and exorcised the demons. It is a vicious pattern we see on a frequent basis. Following the Boston bombings the Internet was flooded with ignorant remarks against the Czech Republic, Russia and, of course, Islam. We saw a witch hunt across America as the US ached to cleanse itself, find some sort of justice and bring back normality. Equally, the Woolwich massacre caused the UK to burst with a fresh anger towards the Muslim community - the people wished nothing more than to fill this tragic void with the sounds of their own voices. The place to look for this sort of behaviour is the world of social networking where everyone has a voice and can cleanse themselves in their own way.
This catharsis is only human nature and is perfectly understandable, but the modern culture of smashing a keyboard to launch your sentiments on to everyone's screens is slightly unnerving. It is becoming normal and acceptable; no one is stopping to think "Wait, why don't we hold ourselves back and not expose the world to our potentially poorly-formed harmful ideas?" I do suppose I'm being a massive hypocrite, though. I'm doing exactly what I'm criticizing: looking for my own catharsis as I throw opinion after opinion into the infinite abyss of the Internet.