With the recent riots in London and violent flash mobs here in the US, Twitter has flexed its power on both sides of the dispute. Can Twitter be the solution to the problem it helped fuel?
Flash riots in London. Group thefts in Philadelphia. Organized mobs in Los Angeles.
All costly and devastating, and most organized on Twitter.
What is usually thought of as a non-malicious networking tool, can be just as easily used as a networking tool for chaos.
Youngsters in London are taking the streets and looting stores, and by using social media and Blackberry messenger, the rioters are able to stay a step ahead of police with mass messaging. Neighborhoods are left looking completely unrecognizable; burned to the ground. There have been several hundred injuries and even some fatalities. Prisons are full. It’s complete pandemonium, and it was all started by social media.
More locally in Philadelphia, flash mobs have turned violent. Teens have been collaborating in large numbers while robbing department stores and mugging innocent people on the street. It is the sheer size of these groups which make them almost impossible to stop, and this, too, was completely formulated on Twitter.
In Los Angeles, a DJ tweeted he was hosting a free block party. This turned out not to be the case, but after thousands of angry people showed up to the alleged block party, police had to get involved and fired beanbag guns into the crowd.
However, this is not all bad. These events show us how powerful of a tool Twitter can be.
Because as much as Twitter is being used for destructive purposes, it is also being used to clean up the problem. The hashtag #prayforlondon was the number one trending topic worldwide at the peak of the riots. Another trending topic, #riotcleanup, is providing people with details about neighborhoods looking for help. (The picture above shows people on the street rallying for the cleanup and went viral on Twitter.)
Not only does this say something about the helpfulness of mankind, this says something about Twitter… and it’s power.
We’ve seen this first hand here in Lancaster. As social media has grown, downtown Lancaster has boomed. And although it’s a stretch to say these increases are directly correlated, a simple search in Twitter of "Lancaster First Friday" shows us tons of tweets from businesses and people in the community coming together, proving Twitter is having some impact on Lancaster’s growth. And as Twitter grows, so will its impact.
As long as there is freedom on social media platforms, they will be used for negative purposes, but lets hope more people use it for positive. And they will.
How can we use Twitter locally in a positive way?