9/11/01 - What if Twitter and Facebook had existed then?

The use of social media and technology has grown by leaps and bounds since September 11, 2001. Facebook, Skype, Twitter, StumbleUpon, and FourSquare have risen to become some of the most trafficked websites available. Imagine what that day would have been like today.

Today we would tweet it, send Facebook messages checking to see if everyone was ok, and live-blogging it. We would have tweet-ups for memory services and just to feel safe. We would Skype with loved ones that were distant only by physical measurements.

But that day we didn’t have that. We only had phones and had to get to a computer for e-mail. If it happened today, we might know exactly what happened on United 93 or read tweets about someone telling their family they loved them from within the World Trade Center.

We might better understand what was going through the minds of our fellow patriots that were so inhumanely taken from us. Unlikely that we would have seen anything from the cowards that attacked us, but if we had social media in such a prominent position that it is today, we might be able to offer our condolences to the victims or communicate with loved ones.



On that day, my friend’s father was in New York. He had a meeting scheduled at the World Trade Center. She called his cell phone over and over before he finally answered and told her that he’d over slept and his phone was on silent.

The amount of these stories are plentiful, and the impact of a Facebook status update stating “He’s OK” would have likely resulted in 30 “likes” and a tweet of the same effect would be retweeted across the board.

These messages didn’t travel at that speed and loved ones were kept in limbo.

I think about that day often. I think about sitting in Mr. Iddings’ classroom with 20 or so other high school sophomores. I remember our Principal coming over the PA and announcing that something had happened, but he didn’t say what exactly, and our teacher told us to continue the test. I remember a student running in and whispering something to him, and our proctor asking, “Well what do I tell them?”

I think about that day when I walked into my Yearbook class and there was a TV on. I remember making a joke, not knowing the severity of it, and my friend that was a senior telling me just how severe it was. I remember feeling empty.

I remember going online at school and going to a message board to talk with others that were in shock too and wishing there was a better way to talk with the ones I really wanted to talk to, but also feeling a sense of country pride knowing that we weren’t giving up. Today, with all the tools possible, I could have talked to my friend in D.C. to see how he was coping with the news at the Pentagon.

Today I would have been able to read tweets about all my friends and their loved ones; hopefully finding out that everyone was ok. Today I would be able to see geotagged pictures and read about 50 bloggers paying homage to the NYC firefighters.

The one thing that wouldn’t change from then to now is the way we all feel about our country and the love that we have for it. We would still feel that same sorrow for those trapped in the buildings and the anger against whoever did this to us. And we would also still feel that sense of pride of the heroes that have stepped forward to save lives and defended our country for us. We would still remember, and never forget.

2 comments about "9/11/01 - What if Twitter and Facebook had existed then?".
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  1. Ace Howard from Ball State University, September 16, 2011 at 4:07 p.m.

    Great post!

    Ever since Twitter broke out the news about Bin Laden's death, I've asked myself the same question. We communicate in so many new ways that it's much easier to get in touch with others. Survivors could have immediately tweeted that they were fine and many of their loved ones would have been put at ease.

    At the same time, could you image all the Facebook profiles of the deceased or seeing their final tweets? It's a haunting thought.

  2. mary, September 19, 2011 at 11:39 a.m.

    Ace, that was exactly the point that I was thinking of when I was deliberating about the positive effects of social media in times of struggle. There are people that I went to high school with who have passed away, leaving behind haunting facebook profile pages that people still post and comment their sadness. While this is a great way to preserve someone's memory, it is so much more difficult to cope with the grief of death with those posts showing up on your minifeed everytime you log on to facebook.
    I really enjoyed reading this post and thinking about both the positive and negative effects of how our technology could have changed certain circumstances of that tragic day.

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