Our connected world in these modern times of terror, human connections, and social media


I was, like most people I know, shattered by the terrorist attacks in Paris. The city of light became the city of horror, with innocent people killed, injured, and/or frightened. In our connected world, Facebook and Twitter lit up with information, and misinformation. Those on Facebook draped their profile pictures in the colors of the French flag with an easy to use app. Mashable, the digital media website, created a twitter account “En mémoire” as a moving memorial to those killed with people posting a picture and a sentence or two about a victim. During the attacks, instagram and twitter photos flooded cyberspace.eiffel-tower-905039_640

Jean Jullien, a French graphic designer living in London, created the drawing of the peace sign and Eiffel Tower, and tweeted it Friday just hours after the the first attack. He added the caption, “Peace for Paris.” The International Business Times states in this article Who Is Jean Jullien? Eiffel Tower Peace Sign From French Designer Captures Mood Of Terror-Weary Paris from November 14, 2015:

Jean Jullien, a French graphic designer living in London, created the drawing and tweeted it Friday just hours after the breaking of the news about the first attack. He added the caption, “Peace for Paris.” …. The simple image of hope spread like wildfire amid the chaos of the unfolding attacks. Jullien’s original tweet was retweeted more than 40,000 times, and the image flooded social networks such as Facebook and Instagram, with thousands thanking the artist for capturing the spirit of how they felt.

Social media was not always kind and supportive. The actor Rob Lowe, who has lived in France, tweeted out what appeared to be a criticism of French President Hollande, questioning why he didn’t close the French borders sooner. Backlash was swift and severe. In the chaos of the events, news outlets tweeted what news they were gathering, some of it preliminary and not accurate.

Such is the nature of our connected world – the ying and the yang of it – where we can globally bond together to mourn terrorist victims and show solidarity for a city, yet swiftly take sides based on often shaky information.

Krystal DeCosta in a Scientific American blog What Do Those Temporary Facebook Profiles Really Mean from November 18, 2015 discusses the mob mentality that takes over and the social pressure created by social media. She states:

Sharing your opinions and thoughts online is as simple as clicking a button. But you might want to hold off on clicking that button if your opinion or thinking differs from the at-the-moment sentiment sweeping through your social network. To do otherwise, might bring the ire of your connections, and with it ostracism from the group. While it has never been easier to share online, it’s also never been harder to share things that differ from public sentiment or to not offer an opinion in the wake of emotionally charged events. Peer pressure, which was once categorically regarded as a negative driver of drugs and deviant behavior, has morphed to a broader expression of social pressure in online spaces and is more aligned with maintaining group norms.

What are we to do when we want to show our support for Parisians or other cities or groups, but don’t want to follow the cyber mob, or be attacked for having a difference of opinion? If people are hesitant to post publicly for fear of retribution, are they retreating to their “tribes” and online networks, or just not engaging? I don’t know the answer, but some people are taking it to the streets, and then to YouTube. For example, in Paris, a blindfolded Muslim man held a sign, I trust you, do you trust me? and asked people who did to hug him. Hundreds of Parisians hugged him while documenting what was happening on their digital devices, and sending the images out via social media. He later unveiled his face and asserted that not all Muslims are terrorists, but are viewed that way.

In the United States we are about to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, and in light of terror attacks around the globe, Seth Godin, whose usually short blogs about marketing I get everyday, suggested a global action of gratitude by downloading his free Thanksgiving Reader and using it at the table. His blog of 11/16/15 says:

The idea is simple: At your Thanksgiving celebration (and yes, it’s okay to use it outside the US!), consider going around the table and having each person read a section aloud.

During these ten or fifteen minutes, millions of people will all be reading the same words, thinking about the same issues, connecting with each other over the essence of what we celebrate. After all the travel and the cooking and the hassle, for these ten or fifteen minutes, perhaps we can all breathe the same air and think hard about what we’re thankful for.”

Whether using Godin’s Reader, or going around the table and saying what we are thankful for, perhaps we can, with our tribes and networks, create a tsunami of positiveness to counteract the hatred and violence that seems to abound.

I’ll jump in early: I am grateful for my family, friends, dogs, my good life, for people who blindfold themselves and ask for hugs, for the readers of our blog, and for the acts of human kindness I see people do everyday both in person and online.

What are you grateful for? What tsunami droplet can you contribute? Please do tell us!


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