The Power of Social Media in a Disaster

Hello all, I’m 22 days into the 30 day writing challenge and I’ve decided I’ve had enough. The rest of the prompts aren’t quite what my blog is about and to avoid me slogging through them and you getting bored and clicking away, I’m going back to my normal content.

I was inspired by Vix Meldrew to write this post. She did a similar one on the shooting that happened in Westminster earlier today but I wanted to give an overall view on how social media is shaping how we perceive, share and support those involved in disasters such as terrorist attacks.

It’s crazy how we can know about a disaster that happens in Peru in literally minutes thanks to the power of social media. Twitter is becoming one of the quickest and arguably one of the most reliable news sources for, well…everything! People are tweeting all over the world using hashtags such as #PrayforParis and #Westminster sending their support to those affected. Whilst on the surface, this may seem like a nice gesture, it also could be viewed as a lack of respect for the injured and their families.

If you were not in any way involved with the disaster, what right do you have to comment on what happened? As humans, we naturally want to help and send our condolences to those in pain or need but there’s a line drawn at how much awareness needs to be raised. Awareness; now there’s a buzz word! Social media is all about awareness. Raise awareness of Comic relief, raise awareness of cancer charities, of the ice bucket challenge, of the no make up selfie, of terrorist attacks, the list is endless. We are constantly being told by others to retweet so we help someone else but are we really helping?

Families are involved in disasters; mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, all of which have a right to their privacy. Yes, sharing their story or picture on social media may help them find each other if it’s an earthquake for example but sharing can also cause a lot of grief and stress for the family. Some of these images can be highly disturbing. They’re often graphic images that people know will get them likes if they post. Why strive on being popular and getting attention from something so sensitive? It’s completely wrong and really angers me!

I think it’s great that as a nation, we are now more aware of terrorism and the disasters inflicted upon the world. We are all stronger and more savvy for it. Countries now have strategies in place for when a disaster happens, just look at the security in America after 9/11 happened. However, it’s the constant stream of posts on Facebook and Twitter from people who claim to know all the facts about the event and want to put the blame on (more often than not) Muslims. It’s the same with politics. As soon as a new law is passed or if a politician even just sneezes, a social media storm is created. Hundreds of thousands of people start tweeting angry words, offensive messages and posting facts that aren’t true which makes the situation even more dangerous.

People have a tendency to make facts up to fill in the gaps. As soon as you have got an audience who are keen to hear what you have to say, there’s no stopping a quick Google search to pull random facts (which could be from any kind of disaster) to capture your followers. It’s shameful to see the amount of influencers on Twitter who can ride on the back of a disaster and call it success.

What is our obsession with sharing such horrific events on social media though? I guess we think in some twisted way that by spreading the word, we are genuinely helping, that the anger and sadness felt by all, helps us make sense of the world. It doesn’t. It’s selfish and it needs to stop. These people have a right to their privacy, to mourn in silence and the police have a right to get on with their investigation without having some twit incriminating the evidence.

Everyone posting about terrorist attacks or disasters is called a citizen journalist. Citizen journalism is defined as: public citizens “playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analysing, and disseminating news and information.” That is exactly what all these people are doing; taking the facts and sensationalising them. Don’t be one of those people. Voice your opinions but do it in a respectful way without ranting about the state of the world or by sharing pictures for likes.

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