When there is a crisis, like the tragic events in Boston yesterday, there are so many reports and images, many opinions, many comments, so much speculation that comes at you full force both in the traditional media and on social media. To that end, here are 5 tips when interacting on social media sites during a crisis and in the days that follow.
1. Respect the victims. Don’t share names of the deceased or injured until an appropriate amount of time has passed for family to be notified, usually at least 24hrs. After that, just remember as you talk about this that people lost their lives and those that survived have a long road ahead of them as they work towards recovery.
2. Give responders a break. Now is not the time to get into a Facebook debate or Twitter battle over what you think really happened in Boston, or armchair quarterbacking how the response should have been handled in your opinion. This is a tragedy, this is people’s lives, trust me when I tell you from the perspective of a responder…that those police, firemen and other responders did the best they could in the face of something catastrophic. Also, remember we do not live in a TV show, investigations take longer than a one hour episode, so give it time.
3. Verify Verify Verify. Before you retweet something or otherwise pass the information along, before you even BELIEVE it, check that the information is not just speculation. Check your source, is it a verified source? There were fake pictures posted on Twitter in the hours following the bomb blasts in Boston. During Hurricane Sandy, there were a number of fake accounts and fake photographs, this is a sadly increasing trend.
4. Talk to your children: If you have children, make sure you are filtering their exposure to the often brutally graphic pictures and video of the incident. Be ready that because they are on Facebook or Twitter they might be seeing some scary, and untrue, things in the next few days. The Mental Health of America Site has some tips on helping your child cope. Also, make sure your children are engaging in safe social media practices and not sharing misinformation.
5. Check your charities This is similar to the verify point earlier about checking your news sources but is a big enough problem that it needs its own number. Please keep an eye on where you send money. That’s right within hours of the tragedy there were reports of fake charity drives starting. So before you pass along money make sure you are looking into who you are giving it to.
Okay I know I said 5, but here is a 6th.
Be wise in your choices when you engage in social media and be safe, but also I hope that while we are all sending our love and support to Boston, we also all refuse to give in to fear, that we refuse to look at each other with hate and suspicion. The number of good caring people in this world outweigh those who would do something this horrible, so don’t fuel the fires of terror when you are posting online. Let’s come together to support those in Boston and those who now begin the battle of finding who did this. Let us show whoever did this that we will not live in fear or help them spread it through our communities by social media.