During, and after, the hideous terror attacks in Paris, social media went berserk. The internet became a source of invaluable information, with links to the European TV feeds with the most immediate and reliable information. Facebook also helped people in Paris transmit their safety to farflung friends and relatives. The web then ran wild, with political grandstanding from every corner, dangerously unfounded rumors, bigotry, compassion, and the instant branding of a terrible event, complete with logos, hashtags and theme songs (including the Marseillaise and John Lennon’s Imagine.)
At its best, the internet becomes a global town meeting; at its worst, the internet encourages everyone, including me, to have and post an opinion, sometimes on events which don’t require additional input, especially from people straining for self-importance.
The internet becomes somewhat like the makeshift memorials which sprout on streetcorners following all sorts of tragedies: those sometimes mountainous heaps of flowers, candles, helium balloons, stuffed animals and personal notes. The current memorial outside the French embassy in NYC includes glasses of wine. Even people without a personal connection to any given tragedy feel a need to express their grief.
Landmarks all around the world have been bathed in the French tricolor, including the arch in Washington Square park:
It’s like an international funeral, where no one knows the right thing to do or say. Probably because there is no right thing.