What the #ParisAttacks tell me about #CommunityResilience

On November 16, 2015

When all sense of humanity seems lost, a hashtag emerges and from a moment of fear and vulnerability, comes an infinite supply of solidarity and support.

It is amazing that a simple keyboard key- two sets of parallel lines, perpendicular to one another- has such immense power in such a power hungry world.

The devastating attacks that occurred in Paris over the weekend were another display of this power, the power of humanity and the power of emergent groups which strengthen community resilience.

Less than 11 months after the attacks at Charlie Hebdo offices and the emergence of the #JeSuisCharlie (I am Charlie), a symbol of unity, the hashtag #JeSuisParis emerged in response to the attacks on Friday night with over 220 thousand tweets in just 48 hours. Yet again, a true illustration that people across cities and across countries will stand as one.

After several were reported dead, others taken hostage and uncertainty about subsequent attacks lingered, #PorteOuverte meaning ‘open door’, spread rapidly across social media offering shelter and lifts to anyone affected. Within just 24 hours, more than 600 thousand tweets, demonstrated that lending a helping hand was embedded in their culture.

In recent times of crisis, we have seen how social media has played a significant role as platform for support and worldwide statements of grief and mourning. Paris was no different, as news quickly spread across the world, people, hundreds of thousands of kilometres apart, banded together with #PrayForParis. In just 48 hours over six and a half million people had shown their support for Paris on Twitter.

But support was not shown simply for those directly impacted by the attacks. In today’s environment, with the threat of terrorism growing and becoming more real in every part of the world, certain stereotypes have become embedded in our society.

At a time when these stereotypes stand to grow stronger, hashtags emerge, much like that of #illRideWithYou during and after the Sydney Siege, hashtags that recognise the implications of these attacks on Muslims around the world. #TerrorismHasNoReligion, tweeted nearly 50 thousand times in the past two days, demonstrates the power of people to resist the intention of a malicious minority, the intention to divide.

As we sit here on this afternoon, in our offices, at our desks, more than 16 thousand kilometres from where these attacks occurred, we still feel connected to the people impacted by this crisis, who through a simple hashtag have had and will continue to have the support of the vast majority of seven billion people.

The power of these two sets of parallel lines, perpendicular to one another, in strengthening community resilience in times of crisis is, I think, is undeniable.

By Stina Webb