If a building explodes in Prague, and no one is around to tweet it, does it even make a sound?
According to bystanders and the laws of physics, yes, it most certainly does, but according to social media, not as loud as one in Boston. This morning, at around 9 am, a gas line burst, causing and explosion in an office building near the main, tourist-trap city center of Prague, injuring 35 people. I live in the Czech Republic, and attend class in that central tourist-trap, but until around one pm today (the day of the explosion), I was completely unaware of what was going on until I happened to stumble upon an email from NYU checking to make sure none of us were injured by the blast. During the day of the Boston Marathon bombings, I was sitting at dinner with a few abroad friends. Five minutes after the actual happenings, one of my friends casually looked at her phone and said “Something just happened at the Boston marathon, insert celebrity here just tweeted about it.” Within ten minutes (free restaurant wifi makes the world go round), we pieced together everything that was going on in Boston, had contacted friends and family there to ensure their safety, and even watched some footage of the explosions. Let me reiterate- It took me four hours to find out about a huge happening across town, and only five minutes to find out about what (to an initial onlooker) appeared to be an equally huge event across the Atlantic.
Of course, after learning more about each event, obviously they were not identical occurences. The explosion in Prague appears an unfortunate accident, and did not claim any lives, while the explosionS in Boston we’re a maliciously plotted attack. However, the volume at which the Boston explosion met my ears was equivilant to a screaming baby with a megaphone, even before foul play was suspected. In Prague, it was at about as loud as a baby rabbit, hence why I was able to peacefully sleep through it.
Don’t bwame him, he twied his vewy best.
Image via House Rabbit Society
Not only that, but no one asked me for details about what happened (or if I was alive), save for NYU’s own Thea Favoloro (God bless ya, Thea, whoever you are), obviously just due to the liability (still, God Bless). Not to mention, Twitter and Facebook don’t give a damn about Prague except for when they are trying to blame them for Boston (CZECHOSLOVAKIA IS NOT A PLACE ANYMORE, and there is no such nationality as Czech Republicans/Democrats/Independent Partiers). Literally, the Boston Bombing got the Czech Republic more attention than did the Prague explosion. #PrayforBoston was a worldwide trend for days after the attacks. #PrayforPrague never happened (despite that more than delightful alliteration).
I think the difference between the volume and resonation of the sound of each explosion in the social media world, which was in turn reflected in the real world, can be partially explained by a sort of “Social Media Megaphone Effect”. On Twitter, according to Mediabistro.com, “The US is the leader in terms of sheer numbers. Its 107.7 million accounts puts it miles ahead of second place Brazil’s 33.3 million and third place Japan’s 29.9 million.” Now consider this; I’m standing in a room with every twitter user in the entire world (I have a big living room, okay?), grouped by country of origin, and each group has a megaphone. Since it’s my house, I pick up my personal megaphone and shout “AMERICANS ARE STUPID, discuss!”.
“CAN YOU HEAR MY IGNORANCE NOW? GOOD.”
Image courtesy of MG Electronics
Obviously I’ll be met by some puzzled stared, as everyone in the world does not speak English (sorry, suburbians). But those poor confused individuals will probably go unnoticed because of the now ensuing bloodbath between English speaking Europeans/Asians who agree that American’s are stupid, and Americans who believe “Oh no she di’nt”. Now, change that scenario to you all in my living room again, except now I shout “Češi jsou hloupí!“ Translate; Czech people are stupid! (I hope…Google translate, always a gamble). This time, the majority of the room will be silent, save Twitters small Czech population, but even if they rose a ruckus, most of us (and by most I mean all) wouldn’t understand a word. Because of the low number of Czechs on Twitter, and the language barrier between them and the rest of the world, we simply cannot react as fast to spread social media awareness/prayers/pity as we can a story that originates in English.
Once the story is translated into English by news sources, i.e. CNN or HuffPost, and all the details are out in the open, the shock value is gone. It no longer becomes a hot news story that can be blown out of proportion (sample tweet; “Boston terrorists attacked Prague, sum1 thought Cechenya was Czechoslovakia 😦 #smh #PrayforPrague”). Instead, it is a factual and well documented happening, unable to be sensualized anymore. With the ‘fun’ sucked right out of it, #PrayforPrague never really got a chance 😦