Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Twitter In The Face of Fear

Two Sundays ago marked the 10 year anniversary for the 9/11 attacks, and as I sat and watched a special about it on the History Channel a thought popped into my head: what would of 9/11 been like if Twitter had been around?

Think about the news that had been released and spread through social networks: the plane landing on the Hudson River, the riots in London, Osama's death, and just recently the suicide of former Nashville Predator Wade Belak (just to name a few).

If you are interested there is a recording on August 9 of The Arlene Bynon Show on AM640 where Mathew Ingram, GigaOM's senior writer, talks about social media and the effects it had on the Arabic rebellions as well as the riots that took place in London, England.

President Barak Obama officially confirmed Osama Bin Laden's death on the White House's Twitter page and then later on announced to the American people on his own account when he would give his formal address on the matter. But even before Osama's confirmed death Twitter was abuzz with speculation that something was up.

Now try and imagine Twitter on 9/11. Watching the towers collapse on TV was horrific enough so I cannot even begin to imagine what it would be like to get tweets from someone two blocks away from the World Trade Centre. These are people who witnessed the planes as they hit, heard and felt the explosions, and wondered as they watched from down below how bad it could possibly be up there that the best option was to jump. The hysterics that these individuals would be in is unimaginable. I remember being planted in front of the TV watching the news coverage, and of course the anchors were in shock and disbelief, but they weren't hysterical. I don't think that I could of watched had they been.

On the Forbes website an article titled "#TotalChaos: What If The Mayor Had Twitter on 9/11?" was posted along with a short YouTube video of the potential posts he could of written had Twitter been around at the time. I myself got chills as I watched it.

Lets look at it from a different point of view: being inside the towers after the planes had hit and knowing that there was no way you were coming out of this alive. On the morning of the attack cellphone reception was not at its best; calls were either being dropped or misdirected. With today's technology that might not of been a problem. So ask yourself this, with tweeting being one of the fastest ways to reach a lot of people simultaneously, could you say goodbye to loved ones in 140 characters or less?

There has been a lot of speculation surrounding this topic recently but I want to know your opinions on the matter. So the question is this: could Twitter of changed the events that took place that fateful day? Or would it have only connected us to those witnessing it first hand in a far more intimate way and in turn magnify the terror and hysterics?


  1. My mom got a cell phone after 9/11. Something she was in denial about before became a necessity to her. You see, my mom and dad travel alot. They are over 75 year old retirees and their world is BIG....lots of grand kids, children, brothers, sisters, nieces, nefews. She wanted to be able to say good-bye. She wouldn't have even thought of it if it weren't for the stories of the people on the third plane calling their loved ones. . Twitter would allow her to give her message to all of us who love her at once.
    It seems kind of creepy but I don't think this is a new concept just new technology. In WWI, letters of good bye were dictated in the trenches and sent home. We saw news reels in WWII of the horrors of the Holocost. Winston Churchill said that those who don't study history make a habit of repeating it. Perhaps if we can all live the history together via mms, sms, twitter we can better understand it and work together to not repeat it ever again.

  2. Wonderful post with some great insight. I remember watching the news that morning with my dad (I lived in Nevada at the time) and how disconnected I felt to the situation. After all, a plane had hit the tower but they hadn't released an official statement as to why, who, or how it had been done.

    By the time we reached school the first tower had fallen, and the impact hit every one of us. We spent our day waiting to be updated by teachers--who used their own discretion as to what they told us--their own form of censorship. I believe my 12 year old self would have benefited from the intimacy that Twitter provides, it would have allowed me to form my own thoughts and opinions about the ongoing situation.

    There is no doubt in my mind that Twitter would have changed the course of events that day--if it was used on the mass scale that it is today.