The bomb blast at a shrine in central Bangkok on 17 August, which took the lives of more than 20 people and injured more than 100, shocked not only Thais but people around the world. I work only a couple of kilometres away from where it happened and was terrified as I rode home on the subway. All my fellow travelers were fixated on their smart devices checking for news and my own Facebook and LINE pages were full of news and photos.
The bomb blast was very violent and the aftermath was extremely grisly. Not only was there a lot of blood and many injured people but body parts were strewn over a large distance including crowded footpaths where people were passing by. Since in Thailand these days, almost everyone has a phone with a camera, it is notable that very few people posted or shared these images. One of my friends who shared such a photo on LINE was told to delete it right away as others warned them not to worsen the situation and to pay respect to families of the victims. This phenomenon was interesting as it is a sign of growing maturity in the use of social media. I call it “literate social media.” Previously in Thailand such images were common in traditional media.
This campaign of “literate social media” is being supported by the Thailand’s public broadcasting service Thai PBS, which is running a campaign at change.org asking social media users and other media not to share inappropriate violent photos and to always check the accuracy of information. So far the campaign has been well received with nearly 10,000 registered supporters.
Meanwhile the police are using crowd-sharing as part of their investigation. They are asking people to check their photos and car cams and share any photos which might provide useful clues under the hashtag #bombercluephoto. The government has put up the hashtag #Strongertogether to try to foster harmony among Thais and strengthen the country.
Clearly social media will play an increasingly important role in the real world. Smart technology and a harmonized community will help us get through a tough situation like this.