9.11 and the Rise of Social Media

Where were you on 9.11?

Like generations before who asked “Where were you when Pearl Harbor was attacked”, or “…JFK was shot”, September 11, 2001 is that date when many of us pose that same question. And like generations before, it is a tragic day when everything changed.

9.11 is also a day that changed US, in very fundamental ways.

Depending on where you were that morning of 9.11, one of the first things you might have done after learning what was happening was to reach out to loved ones. I was in Boston on 9.11.01 at a conference, having checked out of my hotel that morning and was preparing to head to Logan Airport for my flight home. Learning that two of the hijacked planes had originated at Logan, I wanted to make sure that my family knew I was OK. As in many cities, the cell phone lines were jammed and I couldn’t make a call out. After about an hour, I found a landline and was able to make a single brief call to my wife to let her know I was OK, and ask that she share the news with other family members.

With seminal national tragedies like 9.11, we find ourselves immersed in shared events and reaching out… connecting, venting, listening, conveying outrage and fear and otherwise expressing deep emotions that beg to be shared. Part of the catharsis of this experience is a fundamental human effort to make sense of it all, not just from news reports and ‘expert analysis’ but also by exchanging thoughts with friends within our social circles.

MerlynBlogOn911It is out of the heartbreak and outrage of 9.11.01 that social media found its footing. Social networking pioneer Friendster launched in March 2002, followed over the next two years by MySpace, Hi5 and then Facebook. While mobile technology and the availability of internet and Wi-Fi connections were required for the advance of social networks, the human need for connectivity and sharing that gave rise from events like 9.11 were equally important for these platforms to find a footing.

Think about the pre-9.11 world and how hard it was to connect with childhood pals, extended family members, and that circle of friends strewn across the globe. Today’s social networks allow us to be a part of their lives, practically in real time. Technology makes it possible, but it only happens because we want that connectivity.

9.11 changed everything… including us.

Merlyn Reineke

About Merlyn Reineke

Merlyn Reineke is Executive Director of Montgomery Community Media, which provides media training and community-based content by-and-for the residents of Montgomery County.


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