Fast Company

This Is How The World Reacted To Osama Bin Laden's Death

Social media analysis firm Crimson Hexagon sifts the data to reveal a nuanced emotional reaction to the historic day. Nearly 50% of us responded to the news with fear, humor, or reflection.

crowd gathering

From Crimson Hexagon, the social media analysis firm that dispelled the myth of the Verizon iPhone exodus and Sharon Angle's 2010 Senate sweep, comes a truer-to-life snapshot of the world's reaction to Osama Bin Laden's death. Nearly 50% of social media reaction wasn't simple jubilation, but rather a mixture of fear, humor, and solemn remembrance. This sophisticated look is thanks to Crimson Hexagon's unique semantic analysis algorithm, which begins with actual humans coaching an automatic process into recognizing, not just positive and negative reaction, but the nuanced expressions that distinguishes humor from celebration, and revulsion from sadness.

After 10 years of anxiety, news of Osama Bin Laden's death burst onto the social media scene, and flooded Twitter with the highest record of tweets per second ever. Sunday night's enthusiasm seeped into every related topic--including a spike of activity on the Navy SEALs Facebook page. It was, perhaps, more than any other event in recent memory social. Real-life, spontaneous gatherings at Ground Zero and the White House captured headlines.

But, many, including the traditionally hawkish Rudy Giuliani, had mixed feelings about the celebration of death. Crimson Hexagon's analysis of Twitter chatter shows a bipolar world: Many were deeply solemn and others unabashedly whimsical. Fully 27% of chatter rated Humorous or Sarcastic.

A little less than half that number had a sobering reaction -- 11% saddened by the reflection of death.

bin laden tweet stats

Interestingly enough, soon after the exuberation subsided, an anti-celebration sentiment filled the void, which manifested in the viral sharing of a single quote about refusing to celebrate death, falsely attributed to Martin Luther King Jr. (for a detailed account of how the attribution got lost in the haze of blind sharing, check out this piece by Salon).

And, of course, a large chunk, 22%, celebrated the vanquishing of America's long-running enemy number #1--even if their math was sometimes ... quirky.

stats on reaction to bin laden death

International expression was a fun house mirror image of American sentiment: similar in humor, fear, and neutral sharing, but disinterest and sadness snatched a sizable social share from the celebratory spirit.

stats on reaction to bin laden death

Indeed, at any given time, the Internet (to borrow a quote we're pretty sure comes from Walt Whitman) contains multitudes: humor, fear, sadness, celebration and knee-jerk sharing. In other words, even when forced to recall one of the most emotionally fraught moments in its history, America is very much itself.

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[Image: Flickr user rxb]

Earlier: How The Attack On Osama Bin Laden Was Live-Tweeted

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3 Comments

  • Theresa Behenna

    Jubilant crowds celebrating the death of Bin Laden puts them in the same tribal category of radical Muslims that did the same thing after 9/11. The media needs to stop showing these images yesterday!

  • Couille De Gnou

    BoingBoing (via Yahoo) also had coverage of the number of people who had no idea who Bil Laden is/was, which I guess constitutes a tiny minority in the grand scheme of reaction, but it's an interesting counterpoint to the pathos: http://www.ysearchblog.com/201...

  • Elizabeth

    I wouldn't be surprised if the scale of reactions were similar for most top news stories (#1 being sharing the news, #2 being humor/sarcasm). Here's a humorous breakdown of reactions throughout social media.. I think it closely reflects the reactions in this article. http://ellynet.com.nu/images/o...