BOSTON — Information trickled in slowly Friday as details emerged about the manhunt for two Boston Marathon bombing suspects and not all residents and visitors were glued to the TV screen.
Instead, they were glued to their smartphones.
Modern phones provided access to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and apps allowed listeners across the globe immediate access to the Watertown, Mass., police scanner as the second terror suspect was apprehended late Friday.
People kept up with constantly developing stories in real time through rapid, sometimes inaccurate, news updates.
David Oldridge of Boston found out about the initial bombings Monday not from the WHBH Channel 7 news feed, but from the Boston TV station's app.
"I would have found out eventually, but I found out a lot of quicker," Oldridge said Saturday while visiting the Boston Marathon memorial off Boylston Street with his wife, Mandy.
"I don't read newspapers or watch the news anymore because it's all about what horrible thing one person did to the other," Oldridge said. "Everything's on the phone today anyway."
People posted tweets and retweets of eye-witness accounts as events unfolded throughout the week.
The Boston Police Department, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where a security guard was shot and killed Thursday night, each were retweeted thousands of times, providing a strong presence on fast-scrolling Twitter timelines.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the suspect in Monday's bombings who was taken into custody Friday night, last tweeted on the night of the attack, saying he was a "stress free kind of guy." He retweeted Mufti Ismail Menk, a Muslim scholar, on Wednesday. He regularly posted on Twitter up until the day of the attack.
Andrew Bauer, a senior at Syracuse University in New York, sifted through more than a half-million tweets from Monday that used the hashtag "#BostonMarathon," and found 5,000 tweets tagged with a location. Only 221 tweets of them came from the Boston region; the others came from the rest of the world.
Bauer put together a visual guide showing all the tweets in the Boston area, using iSchool's New Explorations in Information and Science (NEXIS), a lab that studies Internet, social media and culture.
"I realize how powerful social media can be," Bauer said. "When dealing with times of crisis, you can see other people tweeting on your street during a lockdown. That's a powerful thing."
On Thursday and into Friday, more than 150,000 people listened to the Watertown police scanner on the website Broadcastify, according to The Huffington Post. The department eventually sent out a tweet Friday night asking people not to broadcast information heard on their scanner feeds because it could compromise officer safety.
"Most information that goes over the scanner is police chatter," said Bauer, who is also an ambulance dispatcher at Syracuse University. "It's raw information, and if you put it in the wrong context, it can be detrimental."
From a dispatcher's point of view, a better use of Twitter would be sending out eyewitness accounts with locations attached to them, which coudl help authorities "see trends and patterns, and send more assistance to those areas" that needed it, Bauer said.
Andrea Tressler and Hana Russo of Cleveland, who were at The Shops at Prudential Center on Saturday, didn't know that officials had engaged Tsarnaev in a Watertown neighborhood until their plane landed Friday and they saw all the text messages.
A waitress at the restaurant where they had dinner told them Tsarnaev was in custody.
"There were a lot of people on their cell phones [in the restaurant]," Tressler said. "We heard, but we just wanted to confirm it."
On Wednesday, misinformation spread through media outlets via their Twitter accounts, leading to several different reports surrounding false arrests.
"Everyone seems to acknowledge there's a lot of misinformation on Twitter," said Daniel Riehs, a resident of the Brighton neighborhood who followed the news on his Twitter feed, especially NPR senior strategist Andy Carvin's tweets, he said.
"But [Friday]," Riehs said, "I just wanted to watch the news. Twitter and Facebook are good to get that initial information out."