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In Lebanon, Dark Humor Has Practical Use

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, January 29 2014

Screenshot of the Google Play app

An application that began as a dark joke has actually found quite a bit of traction in troubled Lebanon. After a suicide bombing rocked part of Beirut January 21, Sandra Hassan uploaded “I Am Alive” to Google Play, an application that lets you send an alert to Twitter saying you survived.

The generic tweet reads “I am still alive! #Lebanon #LatestBombing.”

Hassan was born in Lebanon but is currently studying in Paris, far away from her family and friends at home.

"After the explosion on Tuesday, I developed and published this app as a joke, a sort of dark humour, that in the situation we are currently living in such an application could be practical," she told Agence France-Presse.

"I did not expect the feedback that the application got at all, nor did I expect to receive requests for bettering the app and making it a real tool to be used to reach out to loved ones," she added. "The fact that it could actually serve a practical purpose is a bitter pill to swallow."

Not everyone approves of the application. Some find it distasteful, believing that Hassan wants to capitalize off of other people's suffering.

“I feel sad about apps like these,” Jean-Marc Garabedian, a Dubai resident, told The National. “I am not a fan of people taking advantage of tragic situations to make a profit and I hope it doesn’t gain popularity. We, the Lebanese people, do not want to be reminded about these horrible events and have them engraved in our memories and this app does just that.”

Another Dubai resident said:

I think it’s reality and people are always worried about each other but I don’t think it will gain popularity. They had a similar app when people were burning tires to avoid blocked roads, which is more useful. But if you don’t use this app, will people assume you’re dead? Politicians definitely won’t use it either because it’s a security concern for them.

Other applications like Ma2too3a and Way to Safety try to proactively warn users of dangers on the street, like protests, conflict and gunfire.

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