When it was revealed that Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev – the suspects of the Boston Marathon bombings – were of Chechnyan Chechen descent, Americans quickly took to the internet and social media to voice their anger – and to certain extents – even hatred of a country that they knew little about. This lack of knowledge was displayed in no greater light than when many of those impetuous commentators mistook Chechnya, a republic that falls under the Russian Federation, for the Czech Republic, an independent Central European country. This erroneous preconception was a story in itself, prompting the Czech Ambassador to the United States to issue a statement clarifying the difference between Chechnya and the Czech Republic.

There are two ways to view this unfortunate mistake and the role social media has played in it. This is clearly an event manifested and allowed by the existence of social media. Though many of those same people would still have those mistaken sentiments, the advent of social media allows them to voice such uneducated and unjustified perspectives in a way that is not only embarrassing for them, but embarrassing for Americans as a whole. As an American student studying in the Czech Republic, it’s almost shameful to admit that I share a heritage with those people. How could I explain to a Czech I encounter how they were wrongly being portrayed as this ruthless country with an unjustified vengeance against America? It’s simple, really. While those who quickly jumped to the incorrect conclusion that Chechnya is the Czech Republic and that the U.S. should quickly rebuke them for this terrorist act were unjustified in doing so, it would also be impulsive to critically attack Americans as a whole for the mistaken perspective of a slim minority. Just like how the acts of the Tsarnaev do not reflect Chechnya’s sentiment toward America, the thoughtless tweets and statuses of a few misguided Americans do not reflect Americans as a whole. Only because of social media did this situation become magnified and turned into an international predicament.

Yet this is not to say that social media serves as a negative influence in the world. Because the erroneous tweets, statuses, and posts confusing Chechnya for the Czech Republic became so well publicized, this forced many – who although did not go as far to mistake the two entities for each other but nonetheless knew little about them – to do a bit of research and learn some basic information about them, enough to distinguish one from the other so that this sort of problem does not perpetuate into the future. Social media magnified the problem and made the mistake seem larger than it actually was, but in doing so it forced many to question how much they knew about Chechnya and the Czech Republic and thus learn more about them and the region as a whole.


2 thoughts on “Social Media Sparks Interest in Central & Eastern Europe

  1. Jack Myers, a Media, Culture, and Communications analysis once told me, “It is no longer about how much you know, but how quickly you can look it up.” With the power of technology we are capable of finding out information at our fingertips, within seconds. However, what is the point of looking it up if we have social media right?!

    The situation regarding the confusion of Chechnya and the Czech Republic not only sparks social media interest in Central & Eastern Europe, but also brings to light how trustworthy one is of what they see on SNSs and how that trust leads to many times spread of misinformed communication. This could have easily been avoided if one took the time to use the same device they were tweeting with to Google where Chechnya was located. But there tends to be a belief that if it was posted or tweeted it must be true.. What does this say for our society as a whole?

    The power that social media have within many countries and communities are immense. Many are online 24/7, 24 hours a day, always staying connected and learning from others. However, as mentioned above, with social media and the ability for so many to voice their opinion leaves us with the bothersome task (and often tedious) of having to weed out what is important, what is true, and what is outrageous. I feel as social media and technology have evolved there has been an enormous amount of trust placed on everything that we see or read on our newsfeed and twitter.

    We are privileged to all of this knowledge, but often do not know what to do with it. Should classes be teaching students how to weed out all the information that is constantly being thrown at us instead of reading textbooks? I think so. We are consistently bombarded with statues, updates, and tweets. We are so eager to show off what we know and tend to head straight to SNSs, like Facebook and Twitter to showcase our knowledge. But as the post points out, we are not so quick to check the facts. The Boston Attacks has highlighted the amount of faith that many have in social media, not just within the US but around the world as well. So much that a little country with in Central Eastern Europe, which is most times forgotten, was brought to light in a negative way because of a trending topic.

    We look to social media for knowledge and information. We trust the social media communities to inform us of such things. We listen to the voice of the people and find it easy to trust and believe. When a handful of people tweet about events or facts, trends have shown that instead of validating we retweet. Leaving me with the question: Is social media just as destructive as it is helpful?

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