Facebook in a time of (inter)national distress: Soldier killed in Ottawa
This is a screen capture from the Facebook page set up for Nathan Cirillo after his death.
Closeness and personal contact: Much has been written about social media and the false intimacy these channels provide by creating a sense of community that may be more superficial than truly social. And I’ve agreed with many of these observations.
But today I observed a social platform rallying people expressing condolences for a life lost, and generating solidarity and pride. I’m talking about the Facebook page created for Canadian soldier Corporal Nathan Cirillo, who was killed by a gunman while standing guard at the Cenotaph in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada’s war memorial.
I first learned about the Facebook page on the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) website, around midafternoon. I recall there were a couple of hundred “likes” when I checked it. At 5:29 p.m., the number of likes had grown to 6,426. As of this moment – 12:59 p.m. – the number has grown to 87,1253. Viral.
Posts on the new Facebook page have come from people who knew Cpl. Cirillo, from those who appreciate the work that soldiers do for the country, and from those who simply feel sad. As I’ve watched the page evolve, new photos have been posted and personal stories about Cpl. Cirillo have been told. And a community is drawing together.
Why is this different? Because we are not individuals who already know each other or share interests and are communicating through Facebook: We are people who do not know each other but are being brought together through a social medium to express our feelings about a devastating event. Cpl. Cirillo’ s death is a symbolic flashpoint that epitomizes our sorrow, determination, and pride. The Facebook page has brought him to life – to tens of thousands of people, after his death – and has allowed us to view and express our feelings and determination about something much broader than our personal Facebook connections.