Some may think it just a tad early to publish an analysis like this one from Purple Car but for those helping those helping others deal with this tragedy, I think it’s a worthwhile read. If you are uncomfortable with thinking about this right now, I fully understand. Perhaps you can bookmark the link and come back to it later. It really is a good topic of discussion for social media and emergency management (SMEM) and the blog is well worth adding to one’s feed.
What is and is not appropriate to post during and directly after a tragedy like the #BostonMarathon explosions or #SandyHook is something that I think we all grapple with. Note that I make a distinction between posting as a bystander and posting as virtual operations support teams (VOST), in which case, one would have specific knowledge of the incident.
My personal [bystander] rules tend to be:
- Does the post help people (donation links, missing persons, etc)?
- Does it inform without conjecture (need to know – road closures; evacuation info, e.g., rather than simply breaking news)?
- Does it comfort (think Mr. Rogers)?
If it does none of the above, I would question its usefulness. What do you think? Do you have different rules? More rules?
I love these rules! It reminds me of the etiquette rules I learned about whether or not to say something to a person: Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it kind? If it isn’t all three of those, keep your mouth shut.
But people need to grieve, and more commonly now we gather up comments from friends and other contacts who feel sad too, using social sites. We need some rules of etiquette surrounding this behavior, too.
Thanks for your input, Christine! I agree that people need to grieve. I’m not so sure that the RTing of every breaking new post is grieving. Perhaps more of a need to be useful and informative? People feel and react differently and certainly, for those of us who work in SMEM, it’s important to recognize what motivates a person to post the way (s)he did. I have seen people lash out in feeds in ways that make me wonder if they realize they’re speaking publicly. This sort of behaviour can, sadly, show up as comments on official sites, with the comment target being someone really unrelated to their problems [projection]. Etiquette or not, it’s something to be aware of. They may not be rude, rather, they may be hurting.
With regard to what to say to a person, I try to teach people, when doing social media sessions, that what you post *is* talking to person. There’s an odd sense of anonymity that people seem to take on when posting on the internet (“On the internet, no one knows you’re a dog”). I think it’s always useful before posting to think about whether you would so would say the same thing in person and whether you would care if you were quoted. We all probably make that mistake at one time or another but remembering it takes us a long way toward being a civil community.
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Thank you Marlita, great comments as well.