I've been in lockdown here in the West Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, six miles from the manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in Watertown, Mass. Most years, I pay little attention to the Boston Marathon. Now, as the active manhunt takes place just miles from my home, I'm glued to my social networks and TV.
My local Facebook and Twitter friends (some who live just blocks from the house of the Boston Marathon bomber suspects) help paint a more complete picture of how Monday's bombing and ensuing manhunt have impacted my community.
I watch, slack-jawed, as a raging river of #BostonBombing, #Watertown and #Manhunt tweets fill my Twitter feeds. My neighbors in Watertown have posted disturbing images of SWAT teams perched on roofs with guns drawn, police brigades accompanied by armored vehicles patrolling residential streets and live UStream video feeds of the scene outside a Watertown homeowner's front door.
Via Twitter updates, I've also been able to share news with my family and friends as military helicopters buzz over my house and police sirens wail in the distance. "Feels like I woke up in a Tom Clancy thriller," I share via a Facebook status to quell an influx of text messages from friends curious what's going on in my city.
Meanwhile, I turn on my local news, which is restricted from reporting within a cordoned-off area in Watertown. I watch as network talking heads relay the latest news and pass on reports from news agencies such as The Associated Press.
Over the past couple days, I've been impressed with Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Tumblr and image-sharing sites like imgur. Last night, I viewed a picture of suspected bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev fleeing the Boston Marathon that was found by a Reddit user who posted his findings on the subreddit group "findbostonbombers." By the morning, the picture was on my local ABC newscast. [See also: Reddit Doing CSI-Worthy Investigation of Boston Bombing ]
Social media has always been the only-somewhat-reliable eyes and ears for the media. It has the power to inform and mislead. It can also be dangerous, as I'm reminded by a Boston Police Department tweet urging: "#MediaAlert: WARNING: Do Not Compromise Officer Safety by Broadcasting Tactical Positions of Homes Being Searched."
But as CNN's Anderson Cooper and other reporters are stuck behind barricades reporting on the manhunt in Watertown, I like the fact I can slip under the caution tape and explore the story deeper and on a more personal level today thanks to social media.
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