Tragedy. via social media.

So, this is my first post here and it’s going to be a sad one. I had been thinking of doing a piece on how social media was becoming quite entangled in our daily lives and how communal experiences were being made richer by it. I was gonna talk about the World Cup and how every match was so much more exciting because on one level, you were watching telly and immersing yourself in the euphoria but on a different deeper level, we all shared the moments instantly on facebook and twitter and thus bonded even more in a completely new and personal way.

But something sad happened on Saturday that i want to talk about instead. Early saturday morning, i got the horrible news that my friend’s brother had been killed in a car crash at dawn. I was in both shock and panic and i was in a hurry to find out what happened. Obviously i couldn’t call my friend up and ask for details.

Instinctively i picked up my phone and got onto Facebook. I’m still not sure why. But right there on my homepage, my cousin who’s in the US, had put up a RIP message for the boy. This is how i came to find out his full name and who he was… and the fact that he was also one of my cousin’s best friends.With that, i jumped onto Twitter and straight into my cousin’s timeline where the events began to unfold in the tweets that had come in from his other friends; some here in Ghana, some in the US. The transfer and breakdown of information was so fluid you could almost playback the last couple of hours. The accident had happened, news had gotten round, then disbelief, then some one at the scene of the accident put up pictures from the scene as if to verify, and then shock had spread across twitter, and then finally mourning had begun.And even though i was sitting in the same City and country that the accident had occurred in, i was getting the most vivid updates from across the Atlantic.

The facebook status messages also began to pour in and with that, a whole new wave of people heard the news. And the effect was so profound that Facebook msgs and Twitter updates translated into phone calls and txt messages across continents. Within 5 hours of the accident, the boy’s house was filled with mourners from different places. Including myself. And the answer to the question was always the same: Facebook. Twitter.

The point that stuck with me the most was when the family gathered to watch videos of their boy that had been uploaded by his friends. they had no idea where the videos were coming from and they didnt know half the people who were uploading them, but they sat and watched their son come back to life, as his friends wanted to remember him and celebrate his life. And they also realized that the loss wasn’t theirs alone, because they got a taste of their son’s world and his friends and what a special person their son was to each of them.

Their son and his legacy lived on through the power of social media. And that’s what social media has become – an extension of who we are. An extension of our moods, our thoughts, our persona, our very being.

Staring at his Obituary on Facebook, the impact of the immediacy of social media hits me over and over again. Everything is quicker, everyone is closer and the world grows even smaller as the internet helps us become more interpersonal. Degrees of separation are diminishing with each expanding network as we all become citizens of the world’s 3rd and 8th largest populations – Facebook et Twitter…

…and it’s sad because even though i never personally met this dude, i feel like i know him better now and the sorrow mounts.

But that’s where we are in the world today. Everything that’s happening somewhere at this precise moment is now right there at our fingertips. Sometimes, it’s in our timelines. 


RIP Paabed.



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