After the 2010 World Cup, it became clear to me that Social media is the communication of the future, but had the horrific events of 9/11 occurred a little later, it’s possible that many more lives would be saved and that a clearer picture of what had happened would emerge sooner.
When the jetliners crashed into the Pentagon, the World Trade Center towers, and a Pennsylvania field on September 11, 2001, social media and citizen news had not yet been introduced. Had tools like the iPhone, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook existed, the history of 9/11 could have been permanently altered for the better. If the passengers aboard multiple hijacked planes had been able to tweet about what was going on, it wouldn’t take long for the news to dominate the trending topics list, alerting the government to what was going on, giving officials on the ground more time to react and determine what had really taken place.
While Twitter and Facebook are quickly becoming spots to spread news, rumors have run rampant in the past, notably the false death of actor Jeff Goldblum the day Michael Jackson passed away. The audio recordings of conversations and cockpit struggles are the only remaining insight to the final moments of the jets, but smartphones like the iPhone could have provided a picture to match the sounds and change the history books. If some passengers had iPhones it would have been possible to film the events taking place and upload the videos to YouTube from the air. The videos would have provided evidence to investigators and would make the final moments and impact of the tragedy that much more powerful.
While some citizen video was recorded inside the World Trade Center Towers before they crumbled, the inside story would have been much more in depth if workers had smart phones able to record the events from inside as they unfolded… the struggle to get people out and the drama within.
Only a few shots of the airplanes slamming into the towers exist. Had ubiquitous video cameras on cell phones or iPods existed at the time, more angles of the tragedy would tell a more complete story for future generations. It took months for all of the videos and photos from 9/11 to end up online and in the news. If the event had happened in the social media age, however, those videos, sounds, and words would likely be near immediate and multiplied.
When a plane landed in the Hudson river earlier this year, Twitter was the first to deliver the news. Locally learnt of murder of Eugène Terre’Blanche on Twitter. Television networks and newspapers have been prepped to check the social first when another disaster occurs. In today’s world, the story is emerging from the social. The sooner citizens, police and the government knew about the unfolding attacks on September 11, the faster the response. United States fighter jets could have been in the air quicker had the full picture of the event emerged not from the network news but from citizens in jeopardy themselves telling their story in the hope that others will pass it on.
Social media could have played a profound role in recording September 11, for the memory of the day, for the investigation that ensued, and for history, if only it had existed.