Following the tragic shooting of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, various news outlets pulled information about the victims from their social media profiles. This tactic did more than putting a face to a name. Images and videos from the individuals’ Vine, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter help elaborate on the victims’ humanitarian efforts, academic feats and life accomplishments. Additionally, their friends have created a Facebook page, “Our Three Winners,” in remembrance of them. The page offers more insight into the lives of the three victims and honors their achievements. All of this in fewer than 24 hours, the news traveling like lightning.
I feel like every time I turn on the news, something tragic like this has happened. It makes me fearful that we will become desensitized to such horrendous events that seem to have become a regular occurrence. However, social media helps personalize victims to ensure they are not just the tragedy of the week. They will not be forgotten. They will be remembered by those who knew them but also by those who now have a better understanding of the great people they were. From their profiles we understand more than the basic facts, we can see pictures from their wedding, graduation and volunteer work. We get a better understanding of them as people not just victims.
The hashtags #ChapelHillShooting and #MuslimLivesMatter, which are trending in response to the shooting, have brought the student community together in frustration, grief and confusion, many fearing the crime was hate-motivated. Similarly, social media proves useful in assisting with police investigations. Police are reviewing comments left by the shooter on the victims’ Facebook pages to help determine his motive.