Twitter & Facebook – Social Media Contributes to Spread of Osama's Death

At 11:35 p.m. last night President Barrack Obama confirmed the death of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden to the Nation, seconds later millions of Americans announced it to each other.

Nearly ten years ago, news of the September 11 tragedy was telecasted by news stations and broadcast radio. Today’s headlines are spreading through a new medium: social media.

Tweets, texts and Facebook updates all contributed to the rapid spread of Obama’s news.

Alan Rudy, associate professor of sociology, anthropology and social work, said he first heard the news while doing the dishes and listening to the Phillies-Mets game on ESPN in the other room.

“At about the time the ESPN broadcasters learned from ABC News that bin Laden had been killed, the crowd in Philadelphia was abuzz with the news, news largely obtained via smart phones given text messaging, social media and web access,” Rudy said. “I was immediately struck by the role of the technology and new modes of communication and saddened by the outpouring of nationalism embodied in the USA! USA! USA! chants.”

With the chanting spreading like wild fire through the 45,000 to 50,000 people in the crowd, the role of social media in peoples’ lives was clear.

Facebook updates informed freshman Zach Mackowiak that the United States’ most wanted man was dead.

“I was studying for finals then refreshed my Facebook news feed and all these statuses said Osama is dead, so then I went to and saw it for myself,” the Shelby Township native said.

Along with Facebook and Twitter, text messaging also played a big role.

“My mom texted me the news then I went on Facebook to see what everyone else was saying,” Royal Oak freshman Michelle Kissick said. “I was really proud of the troops who give their lives to keep our country safe from terrorists like bin Laden.”

According to, within hours of the news, a new Facebook page “Osama bin Laden is DEAD” was created. With over 150,000 “likes” and counting, it definitely shows how people are feeling.

Before Obama even addressed the nation, speculation tweets exploded on Twitter.

Over an hour before the speech, Keith Urbahn, chief of staff for Office of Donald Rumsfield, tweeted “So I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama bin Laden. Hot Damn.”

With sources like Facebook and Twitter where people can virtually post whatever they want, it’s important to not always believe what you see, Rudy said.

He said, it may often generate shorter accounts, shorter news cycles and more superficial understanding of the news as a result.

“As has been the case since the rise of modern media and press outlets, the more news there is the harder it is to separate quality news from the quantity of news,” Rudy said. “And the greater the volume of the news, the less subtle, complex and sophisticated its character.”

Whether via social media or by word-of-mouth, it’s the news of the terrorist’s death that made the greatest difference in people’s lives.


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