When President Barack Obama announced Sunday night that U.S. forces had killed the world’s most wanted man in Pakistan, he was only confirming what Americans already knew.
According to a poll of about 22,000 people on Mashable.com, a social media-focused online news source, 30 percent said they learned of Osama bin Laden’s death via Twitter, 20 percent said Facebook, 17 percent said TV sources, and 12 percent said phone call or text message.
“I saw a bunch of my friends tweet about the possibility of Osama bin Laden being dead and I make it a point to not watch TV,” said Nate Riggs, professional adviser for Ohio State’s Social Media Society and a social media strategist. “When something huge like this happens, Google trends’ traffic spikes. People were searching for this like crazy.”
Several news media outlets, such as The New York Times, CNN and MSNBC, via Twitter, reported that Obama would soon make an announcement but there was much speculation as to what he was going to speak about.
“I have family that is in the military. One of them had posted something on Facebook about his death. I told my husband and he turned on the news,” said Heather Rogers, a fourth-year in communication.
By the time the president came on to speak to the nation, many people were already aware that bin Laden was dead.
“I found out through Twitter on my phone. I heard Obama was going to talk to the nation and then my feed blew up from there,” said Jacob Taylor, a second-year in environmental science.
There were 12.4 million tweets in an hour regarding bin Laden, according to Mashable.com.
“Here’s the thing that bothers me: We’re not just sharing news anymore, we’re posting opinions. We’ve now immortalized this guy,” Riggs said. “This is like highway traffic slowing down to watch the carnage of a car accident.”
Lindsay Milliron, a fourth-year in psychology, said her mother texted her a little before 11:30 p.m. and told her she was watching the news.
“I almost didn’t even believe it at first,” she said.
Milliron said she went out to drop off a rent check and saw thousands of people out celebrating and decided to join them.
Her roommate, Kylie Martin, a fourth-year in early childhood education, said she woke up to a text from Milliron informing her of bin Laden’s death.
“I was oblivious because me and my boyfriend went to bed at 9,” Martin said. “I looked down at my phone and saw the text and it said campus was going crazy at 1:30 in the morning on a Sunday and I was so confused.”
Milliron and Martin agreed it was good that everyone was so united, but the death of the terrorist didn’t solve anything.
“So many other people died just to get him and I think we just pissed a lot of people off,” Martin said.
Nonetheless, millions of people across America were celebrating, including thousands of Buckeyes, some of whom jumped in Mirror Lake Sunday night.
“Killing someone usually isn’t celebrated. However, bin Laden killed so many people and hurt even more, that I can kind of understand the celebrations. It was a ‘win’ of sorts for America and people I think were happier about that, especially the families of all of those that died in 9/11,” Rogers said.
Mirror Lake was trending worldwide on Twitter at one point, showing the influence that social media has.
“Traditional news media are constantly being trumped by social media,” Riggs said. “Things go so fast that people don’t think whether they should, they just do it.”