How social media helped make the Vancouver riot an international story

Good News

In the aftermath of the recent Vancouver riot, the now famous kissing couple snapshot became the iconic image of the event.

Australia native Scott Jones was comforting his girlfriend, Alex Thomas, after she had been knocked down in the melee, when a nearby photojournalist happened to capture the moment.

The image quickly went viral, giving a human face to the incident and triggering a maelstrom of reaction from the public.

But perhaps more significantly, the photo demonstrated social media's changing role in the way we interact with the news.

"Social media allows the conversation to continually occur and reoccur 24/7," says University of British Columbia sociology professor Christopher Schneider, whose research focuses on mass and social media. "The story [about the Vancouver hockey riot] in 1994 was national news, but it didn't have as much steam as the story still does now."

Social media has propelled the event into an international incident where anyone can chime in.

This outcome, according to Schneider, has both negative and positive implications.

"One of the dangers is the social tyranny that we see online. Some people have referred to this as an online mob mentality of outing and shaming and naming rioters," he says, in reference to the people who have turned in friends and acquaintances to the police after recognizing them in online photos.

While new laws will have to be created to deal with the ethics of public shaming, Schneider sees this online aftermath as an important model from which to learn.

He also points out the many ways in which social media was used positively.

"Something that really speaks to our humanity is almost immediately after [the riot] happened, people started gathering online and said, 'Let's get together and let's clean up our city.' These were not police or authorities who were saying, 'Get together and fix this mess, people.' People were gathering together on their own volition and saying, 'Hey, we need to do this.' "

Another bright image of humanity to emerge from the debris.

(Photo credit: Rich Lam/Getty Images)