What Will Happen Next, and Where? The Role of Twitter and Social Networking Sites
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As raging fires burned across London last night and the city was overtaken by reckless looting and random rioting, anybody could be forgiven for thinking that the country was falling apart – that disenfranchised youths were ripping the seams between class divides even wider than before, while the vulnerable watched on, wide eyed and fearing. But as we acknowledge this sentiment and nod towards 80s-inspired images of a contemporary apocalypse brought on by today’s youth, we should all take a minute to pause and realise that certain stereotypes – like a small minority ruining it for everyone – were in fact realised yesterday evening. For the majority of the country's youth was not looting JJB Sports and initiating a cat and mice game between the police in the high streets and alleyways. Instead, they homogenously sat watching events rolling on 24 hour news channels, clued to their Facebook and repeatedly refreshing their Twitter feed with anxious worry. It is to these modern mediums that we all looked last night to ascertain what was happening in London, Birmingham and – as it now may be emerging – perhaps across the country, right into the early hours of this morning. Without the use of social networking sites and rolling news channels, we would be in the dark. Yet, many people are asking can Twitter, Facebook and new technologies like BlackBerry’s Messenger service be blamed for aiding the organisation of such destruction? The question is a pointless one of which answering will not be fruitful to the clean-up operation and possible prevention measures that could be implored in the future. Before Twitter and Facebook, there were internet chat rooms; before internet chat rooms, there was texting; and before mobile phones – believe it or not – people communicated via landline telephones and were also known at times to speak in person.
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