Crazy tragedy in my hometown (not too far from where I live). A very troubled young man, Kimveer Gill, took a loaded weapon into Dawson College and opened fire. One young woman is already dead, Gill did not make it out alive, and several others are still in critical condition. I was in Toronto attending The Power Within event, but getting regular updates via CNN and CBC email alerts, my mobile RSS reader, Newsclip, and phone calls/emails from friends.
These are the moments that make you stop for a blink and realize the frailty of fleeting moments.
It was also a wake-up call for those questioning the power of social media. The Columbine High School massacre occurred on Tuesday, April 20, 1999 and in the seven years since then, the impact of social media is startling.
Immediately, everyone was talking about a MySpace type site for Goth fans called, VampireFreaks.com, where Gill had a page. Wikipedia had full information up on Gill in a very short time frame, students Blogged about their eye witness accounts of the horrors and there was a back story happening online as people from all over the world Blogged, Podcasted, and took on the role of Citizen Journalist, armchair quarterback and compassionate community member.
We also learned that it's hard to "delete" anything from the online world. It seems like VampireFreaks.com tried to remove Gill's page, but individuals had already grabbed it, cached it and placed it on their servers.
I would argue that the delete button is not as scary as it once was (i.e. hit it and it's gone forever).
It is the social media conversations that will keep a tragedy like this alive long after the evening news moves on to the next big story. My hopes are that The Long Tail of this story helps people heal and educates others on the importance of talking to individuals that we know are troubled.
Social media is playing a magical role here. The wisdom of crowds is helping people to share their story and get the support they need.