Final Project Poster and Some Reflections: Social Media and Its Role in Holocaust Remembrance

Social media could become an effective tool for ensuring that people remember and learn about the Holocaust in a meaningful way that transmits its importance, tragedy, and complexity. While Holocaust memorial sites and museums have been figuring out the most effective methods of teaching about it and maintaining the physical spaces, the digital space with its numerous users, who are constantly interacting with one another, is much harder to follow, let alone regulate. As a result, it is crucial to understand how and why visitors use their social media to share their experiences. Many of them came as travelers; others came there to learn and then spread what they learned to others. And since this study had used only location-based social media, it is clear that the users had to have been at least aware of the name of the memorial because they used “the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe ” to tag the location. This project shows that if one were to browse Instagram, Flickr, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and WordPress posts from 2017 to 2019, they would find that there are numerous visitors who posted photos of themselves without acknowledging the meaning behind the place in their captions or comments. There are also users who expressed their anger with this situation and laid out explicit advice on how to be a respectful visitor of the site.

There is a clear disconnect between the intended message of commemorating Jewish victims and numerous visitors posting pictures of themselves with little awareness of what the monument represents. There are also numerous users who viewed the images, posts, and reviews, but did not leave a comment, rating, or like; as a result, it becomes even more challenging to try and measure the impact of social media. Did some users who left no visible digital feedback perhaps go on to find out more about the site they saw tagged? It is possible. Think about the layers one needs to consider when looking at a social media post of someone at the memorial: Who took that picture? Why was it taken and posted? Was the image cropped? Was it edited? Were some comments deleted? Was the image taken long before it was posted? The answers to all of these questions are not easily found, and thus this mini-study only shows you a very individual glimpse of what is happening. The question of remembrance then involves a variety of factors: if the users who saw pictures from the memorial, then looked it up on Google, did they go to a more reliable official website or a website with dubious information? It is hard to tell.

Location-based social media platforms could help people bridge that gap between the digital and the physical. It is time for interdisciplinary collaboration where historians and educators improve the way they teach about the past and Holocaust remembrance by working with experts on social media, digital technology, and psychology in order to understand what drives people to use social media and commemoration sites in the way that they do.

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