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These past few weeks, yet again, we are shown just what an impact social media can play on peoples’ lives. With the tragic passing of Australian cricketer Philip Hughes from a wayward cricket ball this week, thousands of people around the country and around the world took to their Twitter and Facebook feeds to share their condolences, tributes and photos. From avid cricket fans to those who were simply moved by the devastation the death caused to Hughes’ family, his teammates and Sean Abbott, the 22-year-old bowler who delivered the fatal ball, social media has offered Hughes’ family a flood of farewells that just would not have been possible 20 years ago.

The most heart-warming part of the social media movement that took over Australia may just be the #putoutyourbats hashtag, started on Twitter by Paul Taylor, an everyday Sydney man who obviously had a passion for cricket and expressed it with his symbolic gesture. The hashtag took off immediately, prompting a flurry of photos posted on social media of people all around the world leaving their cricket bats and caps propped up outside their front doors.

Remarkably, the gesture went so far and wide that even Google and the Sydney Cricket Ground caught on, the latter adding another haunting trending topic to the mix, “63* n.o. forever”, Hughes’ score when he got injured.

Cricketers in Pakistan, India, England and Sri Lanka observed minutes of silence while others lit candles and suspended cricket matches in Hughes’ honour. Cricket Australia retired the number 64 one-day-international shirt as a mark of respect for Hughes. Australian cricket captain Michael Clarke’s press address left him (and those watching) blinking back tears, and was shared widely on all social media fronts.

It’s both saddening and uplifting that the passing of such a talented and well-loved sportsman can spark such a rich outpouring of emotion. It is the 2014 equivalent of thousands of music-lovers inscribing messages of thanks and goodbyes at Abbey Road at John Lennon’s passing.

It is the 2014 way of sending thoughts of love from anywhere on the globe at the touch of a button.

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