Does social media really help in the midst of a crisis?

Social media has become extremely prominent in many people’s lives. 81% of Americans have a social media profile which is a growth of 5% from the previous year.  According to every year the social media usage has grown and will most likely continue to grow. Is this a good thing or bad thing? I think it’s both, social media has negative and positive effects.  Social media is an amazing tool for social networking, and staying connected to friends. It can also be a good tool for news, but also a negative one as well. The news that I want to focus on though is major crisis’s, like terrorist attacks, shootings and natural disasters.  Social media can be a very useful tool when it comes to these crisis’s but it also can be harmful as well.

Starting with the positive aspects of social media in crisis situations. Firstly, social media is extremely useful to have people check in and say they are ok. Facebook has incorporated a check-in system. You can check in when you arrive in country or tell people where you are.  When a major crisis occurs, like the Paris terrorist attack this tool becomes helpful for people to let their families and friends know they are ok.  Social media also allows for updates. People who are in a crisis may not have access to the news, but they can check twitter and Facebook which can give them updates about what is occurring. It is a good tool because of the quickness of it.

While there are many good aspects to social media in crisis situations there are also, bad ones as well.  A major one is that a lot of times social media can be wrong.  Some of it is just people’s opinions, and some is misinformation from news sources. The real problem is that people are so quick to believe anything they see on social media when a major crisis has occurred. People are panicked whether the crisis a mass shooting, terror attack, or natural disaster people want answers and the first answer they get they are quick to believe. For example, a man on twitter told everyone that the NYSE had flooded during Sandy, which in fact, was false.  False GoFundMe pages have been created for false news articles and people lose money because of this. During the Boston bombing a man was falsely accused due to social media. There are so many cases with false news that comes out on social media and usually consequences follow.


Image of Boston Bombing

( Image courtesy of Flickr user: Vjeran Pavic )

For it is hard to say if social media is more helpful then harmful. You could sit here and try to outweigh the pros and cons, but how can you say that being able to check in with your love ones during a terrorist attack does not matter. No matter which side you would take in the argument of positive and negative, the truth is there is a case for both sides. Maybe we as a country need to do more to educate people on social media about fake articles and the harm they can do. Whatever the solution I know this, social media will be around for a long time and we need to learn to use it in a productive way and not a destructive way.

feature photo courtesy of Flickr user: Esther Vargas


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