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How Social Media Unites Us During the Boston Tragedy

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For some time now, my family has been listening to my tired refrain about the Internet feeding into an unhealthy need for self-glorification.

Observing my daughter as she clutches her iPod in anticipation of the inevitable endorsements of her latest uploaded picture on Instagram from friends as well as strangers, worry consumes me, as I wonder if today's children will be more or less charitable than past generations.

Will our children raise money for homeless shelters? Will our kids continue to look for ways to reduce world hunger? Will selfishness pervade their pores like ingrown hairs? Or will their universal connectedness harness a deeper desire to serve and help others?

The answers remain to be seen, but my wonder and worry about the self-absorption of today's youth did force me to make an executive decision in my home. Despite my own love of any medium which allows me to "pin," "like," tweet, or type a hashtag, life does not need to be complicated by the intricacies and subtle nuances that social media weaves into our lives...Or so I thought.

Amidst the protests of my family members, and the realization that my kids can and would probably outsmart me when it came to technology, I deactivated all of my social media accounts and our Internet, consequently cutting myself and my family off entirely from the tweets and comments of not only Internet strangers but also several terrific online friendships.

The subsequent withdrawal caused my pacing to wear a pattern on my floors and left me wondering what I was accomplishing. Finally, a few days ago -- although ashamed of my lack of will power and hesitant to jump back into a world I felt was far too consuming -- I did reconnect to the Internet.

As I reactivated each account, I continued to doubt this decision, and hovered my mouse over the 'log out' buttons, convinced there was nothing good to be found and certain my voyeurism would not bring fulfilment.

Instead, I was certain my desire to see into other people's lives -- to view their pictures, captions, comments, and blogs -- would cause my ability to see the world I live in as a series of generic clips and slogans, as opposed to an open, infinite window of connectedness.

Then last night, as I did my usual round of social media hopping, my fingers stopped in their tracks as I put pieces together and realized with a bubble of sickness what had happened in Boston a few hours earlier; the horrific actions which left too many in shreds of fear, agony, despair, and grief.

Again.

Again our world is being shaken and stirred by faceless, nameless tyrants, and we are left questioning the goodness of humanity. However, as I perused the Internet further, although my sadness and confusion were more consuming with each new detail discovered, my attention was drawn to the volume of prayers and wishes sent out by the world.

The harshness of the scenes depicted in pictures and articles were, instead, caressed and stroked by the tender words of people determined to acknowledge not only the evil in the world, but more importantly, those who were affected. Victims. Heroes. Defenders. Defenceless. All represented in the eyes of the world wide web in myriad captions, comments, pictures, and paintings.

Tweets which usually focused on humour, deliberately mentioned the people of Boston; not wanting to sully the memories of the deceased and injured by jesting about reality TV nonsense. Facebook was flooded with pictures, images, words, all meant to display both grief and hope.

The world does not ignore the tragedy, but as I hopped from one site to the next, my heart pounded in my ears as I realized for the first time the universality of love for one another.

Of course the evil is apparent, and that is what the evil-doers want us to see and believe. But united through the veil of one moment in time, social media displays the true essence of humanity.

The events in Boston are awful. Each and every person affected will be forever changed. Words cannot do them justice. But thankfully, there is a world of people who will try.

WARNING: Some of the photos and videos from the scene may be graphic and disturbing.
GRAPHIC WARNING: Boston Marathon explosion
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One marathon suspect has been captured, according to an official with knowledge of the investigation.

Another remains on the loose in Watertown after a firefight with police. Authorities have established a 20-block perimeter as they search for him.

Read more here.

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new photo suspect 2

Just hours after the FBI released the first photos of suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing, a new photo of Suspect 2 may have emerged.

David Green, 49, of Jacksonville, Fla., had just completed his first Boston Marathon, when he snapped a picture with his iPhone 4S, taken at 2:50, just after the two blasts ripped through the finish line area, killing three people and injuring more than 180 others.

The FBI has not publicly confirmed this photo as Suspect 2, but Green told the Huffington Post that an agent told him, "this is probably the best we have right now."

The man who appears to be Suspect 2 is wearing a white hat with a "3" on the side as seen in the publicly-released photos.

Read more here.

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Minutes before the bombs blew up in Boston, Jeff Bauman looked into the eyes of the man who tried to kill him.

Just before 3 p.m. on April 15, Bauman was waiting among the crowd for his girlfriend to cross the finish line at the Boston Marathon. A man wearing a cap, sunglasses and a black jacket over a hooded sweatshirt looked at Jeff, 27, and dropped a bag at his feet, his brother, Chris Bauman, said in an interview.

Read more here.

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info wars

BOSTON -- Moments after the FBI revealed images of two baseball cap-wearing men wanted for questioning about the Boston bombings, the press conference descended into a sideshow.

A journalist from a far-right wing website called Info Wars shouted out a question accusing the government of carrying out the attack that killed three, and maimed or injured 170 others.

FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard Deslauriers ignored the allegation of a government conspiracy from reporter Daniel Bidondi, but the Alex Jones protege did not stop hollering.

"The FBI lies," Bidondi said. "We've got the proof," he said accusing the government of a "false flag" attack in which it staged the blasts and made them appear like the work of terrorists.

Bidondi found himself at the center of an media scrum with cameras and microphones pointed at his face after law enforcement officials left the podium in the Sheraton hotel.

Another reporter ridiculed Bidondi from across the room, telling him to shut up and calling him an asshole.

The excitement quickly dissipated as reporters returned to delivering the news about the official images of the suspects.

Bidondi has been a presence at other press conferences this week related to the bombing investigation.

--Michael McLaughlin / HuffPost Crime

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled Bidondi's last name. We regret the error.

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Dr. Ralph Gross, a facial recognition expert at Carnegie Mellon University, said the FBI photos of two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing are likely too grainy to be matched against a driver's license database or Facebook. But he thinks they may be just good enough for someone who knows the individuals to identify them.

"The resolution isn't particularly good. The one that's kind of best is unfortunately a side view -- and in general the face recognition software works best with frontal view," he said.

Research has consistently found, however, that people can spot people they know even in grainy, off-center photographs.

"Humans are actually very good at recognizing people that they are familiar with," Gross said. "Somebody that might know these guys, or might know the way they dress, might certainly be able to recognize them."

The FBI said the men should be considered armed and dangerous, and urged tipsters to call 1-800-CALL-FBI if they believe they have information that could lead to an arrest.

--Matt Sledge

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The New York Daily News reportedly doctored its front page photograph of the Boston bombings (see update below).

WARNING: LINK GOES TO GRAPHIC PHOTO

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suspects

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CNN reports that, because of a flood of traffic, the FBI's site is temporarily down.

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FBI's Richard Richard DesLauriers said the only official photos that should be relied upon in the investigation are the pictures the FBI unveiled.

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Richard DesLauriers "somebody out there knows these individuals". They are considered armed and extremely dangerous.

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The FBI's Richard Richard DesLauriers unveils photos of two suspects.

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The press conference is scheduled for 5 p.m. Watch it here.

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From The Huffington Post's Michael McLaughlin ...

Christine Anastos and her therapy dog Windy comforted runners who dropped in to the Boston Athletic Association's offices today.

Windy, a black labrador who retired from Guiding Eyes for the Blind, was a big hit with the Marathoners.

"I don't think there was a moment when someone wasn't petting her," she said about Windy,who was joined by a Newfoundland and boxer. "All she has to do is be herself. She's so sensitive. She takes in all the emotion."

Anastos makes Windy available through Therapy Dogs International There are more than 100 therapy dogs available within a 20 mile radius of Boston, she said, so people should contact the group if they're interested.

boston dog christine anastos and windy

Christine Anastos and Windy

boston dog windy

WIndy

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The New York Post once again found itself in trouble after it published front-page photos of two men on Thursday who it said were being searched for in connection with the Boston bombings. The problem? They were completely innocent.

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The FBI press conference scheduled for 5 p.m. today is the first public briefing in two days, according to Fox News.

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boston

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 18: Boston Mayor Thomas Menino pauses after speaking at an interfaith prayer service for victims of the Boston Marathon attack titled 'Healing Our City,' at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on April 18, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts. Authorities investigating the attack on the Boston Marathon have shifted their focus to locating the person who placed a black bag down and walked away just before the bombs went off. The twin bombings at the 116-year-old Boston race, which occurred near the marathon finish line, resulted in the deaths of three people and more than 170 others injured. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

boston

US President Barack Obama speaks during the 'Healing Our City: An Interfaith Service' dedicated to those who were gravely wounded or killed in the Boston Marathon bombing, at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston, Massachusetts, on April 18, 2013. Obama is in Boston to mourn victims of the deadly marathon attacks, as investigators study images of a suspect who may have planted the bombs. No arrests have been made in connection with Monday's twin bombings near the finish line of the race, which sent metal fragments and nails into a crowd of thousands of runners and spectators, killing three people and wounding 180. AFP PHOTO/Jewel Samad

boston

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 18: Former Massachusetts Governor and 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney attends an interfaith prayer service for victims of the Boston Marathon attack titled 'Healing Our City,' where President Barack Obama spoke at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross on April 18, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts. Authorities investigating the attack on the Boston Marathon have shifted their focus to locating the person who placed a black bag down and walked away just before the bombs went off. The twin bombings at the 116-year-old Boston race, which occurred near the marathon finish line, resulted in the deaths of three people and more than 170 others injured. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

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A local paper in Minnesota ran an unfortunately placed ad for a pressure cooker -- right next to a story about the Boston Marathon bombing, which was likely carried out using pressure cookers packed with shrapnel and explosives.

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From the AP:

BOSTON -- Kenneth Feinberg, an attorney who managed the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund, will design and administrator of a new fund to help people affected by the Boston Marathon bombing.

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Boston Marathon Fund raises more than million in 24 hours.

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From The Huffington Post's Michael McLaughlin ...

BOSTON -- The sight of bright blue and yellow windbreakers and t-shirts have become an instant symbol of Boston's healing and unity since Monday's double bombing.

The flashy colors are worn mainly as the official gear of the marathon. Blue is for the 23,000 runners and yellow is for the thousands of volunteers. Adidas also produces versions of the merchandise that's available to the paying public.

"This is my sport. This is my city," said Kim Stemple, a race volunteer wearing a lemon yellow jacket available on Thursday

"We know each other. We're each other's best therapy," she said about other volunteers.

Griffin Schroeder donned the blue runners' jacket as he stood near a memorial on Boylston Street before heading back to Wisconsin.

"It's out of respect," the 27-year-old said, adding that it's a symbol of completely the grueling event. "It's a very important accomplishment."

The windbreaker is an open invitation to talk with other marathoners. "I might ask someone if they finished the race. Or if I see someone we give a nod to each other."

Volunteer Susan Furgal of Brockton, Mass wept Thursday as she wore hers near the bomb site.

"I had to make myself come back," she told HuffPost.

Others find simple comfort in displaying that they were a part of the marathon.

"I just feel good wearing it," said Lene Henricksen, 51, from Denmark who was interrupted by the attack before finishing the 26.2 mile course. "This should never happen again. The marathon should go on."

boston marathon

Griffin Schoder wears the blue runner's jacket "out of respect" for the attack, but also because he's proud to have completed the testing race.

boston marathon runners pat cohen and kim stemple

Race volunteers Pat Cohen and Kim Semple embrace near the makeshift memorial of flowers and candles on Boylston Street

boston marathon runners lene henricksen

The race was called off before Henricksen, of Denmark, got to the finish line. She had the misfortune of traveling to New York for last fall's marathon that was canceled due to Hurricane Sandy.

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From The Huffington Post's Christina Wilkie: Relatives of bomb victims who remained in the Intensive Care Unit of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston on Thursday were unable to watch President Obama's tribute to those killed and injured in the blast, but they were nonetheless very keen to know what the president said. One family member of a renect amputee sent a text to HuffPost during the speech that said, "ICU has no TV's! How is it?" By all accounts, it was a very good speech.

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"This time next year on the third Monday in April the world will return to this city to run even harder."

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