Last Friday 21st September 2012, Haren a little town in the north of The Netherlands experienced how powerful social media were. A month ago a teen girl who lives there created a party event on Facebook to celebrate her Sweet Sixteen birthday. She invited her friends and forgot to tick on private. So after 2 weeks 2000 people RSVP’d the invitation. After finding out about this, she removed the event but this event had gone viral. It had been copied and pasted at Facebook and Twitter as Project X Haren, referring to the Project X movie, where a party goes out of hand. As there would not be a party. But mainstream media picked this up. Some talk shows covered this. Several DJ’s called the youth to come to Haren. Read this for a comprehensive coverage.
The front yards of many houses were damaged. Several shops were plundered. A number of ambulances were thrown stones, so they could not help the wounded ones. 35 rioters have been detained. 20 were apprehended that same night. All of them would come to court The rest came to the police station, some with their parents. The damage costs were estimated around € 2 – 3 million. Insurance companies are going to cover it. They plan to make the rioters pay for it. Even if this means the rioters have to pay the cost in installments. Ivo Opstelten, Dutch minister for justice supports this.
Who’s to blame
Last week Monday, 30.000 people estimated to come to the town for Project X. Mayor of Haren en the local police corps even issued a statement to prevent the youth not to come to Haren but this worked apparently as reversed psychology for the youth. There were two groups of people who came to Project X Haren: those who were curious and those who wanted to create chaos. The last group was responsible for the chaos. What surprised me the most is the age range of the rioters: they are between 15 – 40 years old! What the hell were the adults and minors doing there?
Anti social media
Critics have been coming about Social Media that evening. I was following this both on Twitter and Facebook. I work in communication field. As a communication professional Social Media are my daily bread. It is sad that some critics blamed Social Media. Ok, that girl made a mistake but who would come to a place where no party is. Dutch Justice Minister said in his statement today he had no intention to judge Facebook’s role on this matter.
Why did we praise the use of social media during the Arab spring while we now condemn it? The effect is the same, an event goes viral and reaches the target group. The difference is people in the Arab countries brought together by social media fighting for a cause. Here, the youth (read: rioters) came together through social media cause they were bored and needed some action in their life. Pathetic! So it is not anti social media but it stay social media for me.