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Baltimore Riots As Told By Social Media
By: Jennifer Graber
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Political statements aside, the ubiquity of riots these days is quite alarming. The violence and incidents are widespread, taking over cities and areas at troubling rates. Uninvolved and unassociated individuals are being brought into a situation they had no part in. Cities and areas are being brought to a screeching halt. This is precisely the case in Baltimore, Maryland, with its latest rash of riots.

Riots are not anything new. They have likely been occurring for centuries as a means of showing discontent. But what is new is the ability to document those riots in real-time versus hours-old information. Social media is providing the ability to tell the stories of riotous events live, as they are happening. Additionally, social media is providing a unique on-the-ground perspective from those living it and breathing it.

Reddit is live-streaming the violence in Baltimore. The feed is “covering the riots, violence, and events of Baltimore” beginning this past Monday. The feed shows posts regarding road closures, police scanner information, organized protest locations, peaceful protests, arrests, looting, arson, and more. Reddit’s feed also even shares the bright spots, like Baltimore citizens bringing officers food and water and groups coming together in prayer for peace. Reddit’s live coverage link also includes additional resources, like links to police scanners, live local news feeds, blogs, and other related information.

Individuals are also taking to social media, like Instagram, to share their perspectives in video form. Instagram videos are popping up documenting the riot and events in Baltimore. Users are sharing videos that depict fires, rock throwing, police confrontation, assaults, and even the occasional peaceful gathering. These videos are powerful because they are from those who are there, who live there, who work there. These videos are from those who are right smack dab in the middle of Baltimore — those who are left picking up the pieces.

Other social media sites are being used as well — sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Periscope. All of these sites and apps are capturing the real, raw emotion of the moment at the time it occurs. The viral nature of the Baltimore riots on social media has allowed a new era of journalism to be ushered in — citizen journalism. Citizens are capturing and contextualizing the violence by “describing their own experiences but also pointing at academic papers and poverty statistics.” And then there are the expected gawkers, of course. We are getting a never-before-seen perspective on what is taking place, and the view is both scary and heartbreaking.

Side note — the Gray family, whose son was the inspiration for the riots, has come out against the violence. In fact, they “expressed outrage.” Too bad some are not listening, thereby somewhat devaluing those who are actually acting in peace.

Some good has come from the journey of the Baltimore riots on social media. The positive side is that people are using social media to band together to organize prayers, clean-up groups, and more. And people are actually using social media and the Internet to ferret out the truth. Users are calling out and correcting rumors regarding the riots’ events. Who would have thought the truth would be prevalent in reporting, especially on social media?!

Social media, with all its faults, comes in handy. It harnesses the potential to give us a birds' eye view of Baltimore. We are even getting a glimpse at all sides, all opinions, all stances. And it is not pretty. Let us hope that there is a positive end in sight.

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About the Author
Jennifer Graber is a Business Development Manager and marketing enthusiast. Her specific interests include branding, consumer behavior, development, integrated marketing communications, and new & social media.
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