The Independent’s Year in Review: Technology

Emily Hilscher’s Facebook page contained all the chit-chat and memories you would expect of a 19-year-old freshman veterinary student: grinning pictures from fancy-dress parties, reminiscences about the time she and friends recreated a Spice Girls video, and invitations to discuss “Why Emily Hilscher was cooler than me”. And this: “Recent News; 4/16/07 Emily Hilscher passed away during the Virginia Tech shooting.”As the horrors of America’s worst campus killing spree unfolded in Blacksburg, Virginia, in April, the students there instinctively turned to the Facebook networking site. Even while the gunman, Cho Seung-Hui, was roaming the campus, students locked in classrooms were using the site to exchange information, to hunt for each other, or to reassure friends. The ” I’m OK at VT” group became a forum for swapping information about who had been hurt, or worse, and who was safe. Then there was the “citizen journalism” footage of the events, swapped via Facebook and other photo and video-sharing sites; and later still, the discussion groups offering shocked messages of empathy from strangers across the world.

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