Since the riots and looting in London began on Thursday, people have been quick to blame social media services such as Twitter and BlackBerry’s messaging service BBM for the unrest. But in the aftermath of the riots, people are using social media to show support and help clean up.
During events such as the London riots, Stanley Cup riots, and the political crisis in Egypt in January, people are blaming social networking because it brings people together and mobilizes them. This past weekend, BlackBerry Messenger, which has group chat capabilities, was used to share locations of riots. Looters sent tweets out to fuel the fire, as well.
However social media proved to be just as good a tool for repairing the damage as for causing it. There are now trending hashtags, websites, and Facebook and Twitter accounts devoted to organizing groups of volunteers.
The Twitter account @riotcleanup gained more than 50,000 followers in less than ten hours. It tweets cleanup locations and times, as well as other important information such as safety tips, motivation, and inspiration for the volunteers and supporters. Additionally there is a website posting this information and allows users to add cleanup locations. There is also a similar Facebook page and the “Catch a Looter” Tumblr account posting pictures of looters and asking for help identifying them.
Perhaps most significantly, people are sharing pictures and videos of volunteers cleaning, showing their sense of community and unity, and talking about the experience. This picture of people holding up brooms has gone viral. All of these actions by volunteers, as well as supporters all over the world, are bringing people together, telling them how they can help, and documenting progress made, both in terms of cleaning up the mess and recovering from the trauma of this weekend’s events.