When the world suffers a tragedy we increasingly learn, react and participate all from the palm of our hands.
It wasn’t more than three generations ago when Americans learned of a different deadly attack on American soil. That day of “infamy” taught Americans to gather at their radio sets to listen for news.
President Roosevelt had a live microphone. On this day President Obama had Facebook Live.
The news, the updates, the reaction all comes to our mobile devices—in real time. And people wasted no time in sharing.
Among them was presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump who used the tragedy to double down on banning Muslim immigrants.
The tragedy has become an equal opportunity political opportunity. If Trump doubled down on immigration, Hillary Clinton doubled down on gun control.
If Americans on social media were looking for an appropriate political tone, it came from across the ocean.
The beauty about this modern means of mass communication is everyone gets a chance to participate. Social media has become our communal campfire when tragedy such as Orlando strikes. Which is partially why we are glued to our phones waiting for the surprise of people we know, follow, or respect to chime into the discussion.
One such person was Lin-Manuel Miranda, the star of the Broadway musical “Hamilton.” On the very day he should have been preoccupied with winning a Tony Award, there he was on my Twitter feed.
Miranda’s tweet is symbolic of how we’ve come to grieve, honor and demand action from such times of tragedy. We do it visually through memes. The images say metaphorically more about our emotions than 140 characters ever could. We saw it recently in the death of Prince and with the shooting massacre in Paris. In fact, the City of Paris led the way with one of the day’s more powerful posts.
Brands walk a fine line when trying to acknowledge and participate with their followers in tragedies such as this. As we saw in Prince’s death, many brands simply got it wrong when they tried to make a statement about themselves. Many more today got it right, among them, GAP, Esquire, and Hope For Humanity.
We’ve increasing become a society connected by our devices getting ever so closer to the global village that communications scholar Marshal McLuhan once foreshadowed. The tragedy in Orlando proves how we now we react together and grieve together. But will it be a strong enough event to make us come together?
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