Amid confusion, social media informs, enrages — and relieves the tension

As the manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombers continues, messages on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram helped spread information, rumors, and provocation, and a whole lot of Dunkin’ Donuts.

As Carly Carioli reported, Arkansas state senator Nate Bell set off one of the most high profile firestorms with a tweet suggesting that embracing the second amendment would have made Bostonians feels safer:

Bell later took to Facebook to apologize for the tweet’s “poor timing.’’

“In hindsight, given the ongoing tragedy that is still unfolding, I regret the poor choice of timing,’’ he wrote. “Please know that my thoughts and prayers were with the people of Boston overnight and will continue as they recover from this tragedy.’’


Carioli has a good summary of the typically Bostonian response, and there was not much cowering involved.

Across the world, Ramzan Kadyrov, president of Chechnya, also took to social media to make incendiary statements, using the photo-sharing social networking site Instagram to post that, whatever the case may be, the evil in the attacks was a by-product of America, not Chechnya.

“Any attempt to draw a connection between Chechnya and Tsarnaevs — if they are guilty — is futile. They were raised in the United States, and their attitudes and beliefs were formed there,’’ he wrote, according to one translation. “It is necessary to seek the roots of this evil in America. The whole world must struggle against terrorism — that we know better than anyone else. We hope for the recovery of all the victims, and we mourn with the Americans.’’

Motherboard’s Adam Clark Estes pointed out that Kadyrov was a regular and prolific Instagram user, as the Guardian had previously profiled.

—Photograph: Instagram

“It’s actually a very useful thing,’’ Kadyrov told that newspaper. “I now have the opportunity to monitor public opinion in real time.’’

Some of his posts did indeed display a masterful — if extreme — use of kittens, a beloved Internet trope, with one sporting a kitten in a flowery basket, and another featuring the president cuddling with a tiger.


Much of the drama of the investigation also played out through social media, openly and online: Dzhokhor A. Tsarnaev, the suspect at the center of the manhunt, appears to have had his own Twitter account which he posted from even after the attacks, even while the Boston Police took to Twitter to send out information about what they were looking for and asking the public and media not to tweet out details about investigative actions:

Social media was also a way for many to vent, share, or divert the day’s anxiety towards a lighter subject.

A number of people who claimed to have had their houses and apartments searched took to the Internet to share the experience, with one poster on Reddit sharingwhat we had for breakfast in Watertown this morning’’: A SWAT team in the living room.

Andrew Kitzenberg, founder of GetOnHand, regularly found himself at the center of the action, and shared pictures of stray bullets that pocketed his apartment:

And pictures of officers moving into position:

Dunkin Donuts announcement that it was staying open to serve those who serve the city was met with Boston pride:

And many, like Tsarnaev, found solace in cats: One iconic animated Gif, of a cat dressed as a shark on a Roomba chasing a duck, was frequently passed around throughout the tense day:

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