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How can social media help in a tragedy?

Social media is a great way to communicate with friends at the best of times. It helps people quite often over long distances stay in touch, re-connect and see what others are getting up to through photos, messages and games. So when tragedy strikes, social media can be a powerful tool to help those who are effected, offering help support and guidance from friends. However, is social media appropriate for everyone when dealing with a traumatic situation?

Whether you are a social person like me, unafraid to chat to anyone and find out what is happening in their lives or how they are or you are more introverted and quiet, everyone seems to use one or more social media platform’s to express their view; share stories with others and keep a net presence. However when disaster strikes, it can be too easy to share it with the whole world in an attempt to get support from friends. Users of social media tend to be relaxed about posting on social media due to the fact that they are just writing it on a screen. There is no realisation that it is akin to shouting your news to the whole world and that the data will be stored forever more. In a tragedy it is always better to think first about whether you want others to know before posting because it is impossible to un-send that post.

Depending on what the tragedy is, social media may not be the appropriate tool to inform and seek help from others. In situation where a death in the family is involved, for some it might be helpful and comforting to seek assistance from others. However when something like this happens, those who are effected by grief should think about the others that the tragedy is effecting too. For some, grief is a very public thing and for many others it is private. Although, people who post are probably not thinking of these factors, it is very important in considering whether social media can help in a tragedy because in some situations an ill thought out post may have unintended consequences for other people.

Some forms of social media like Twitter and Pinterest are frankly inappropriate in times of tragedy. I know for me, rather than use social media when coping with a difficult situation, I turned my social media off for the week and it allowed me to come to terms with something in peace without being distracted by other peoples’ lives. However at the end of the day it is for others to judge what their reaction to a traumatic situation would be. In many situations though, people tend to act first.

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