I have a confession. I really do like social media. I have reconnected with an untold number of friends since I entered Facebook world in 2009. Friends I had not seen in nearly 40 years have become near and dear once again. It’s also a great way to keep up with my cousins who live all over the country. And I even get to keep up with my wife’s aunts! They are too cool. Social media has afforded such wonderful blessings.
But…social media can be destructive too. I feel compelled to speak into one particular way that I have seen a great tool of communication used in an overtly harmful way. When a person or family is facing a crisis event, it’s time to flash a bright yellow caution light in regard to your use of social media. Allow me to cite a few examples:
In recent years, I have been called to assist law enforcement officers with fatality car crashes where the victim’s family has shown up on the scene. The family arrived because someone sent them a snap-chat that says something like this: “I saw a red car that looks like your wife’s car. Could this be her car? It was involved in a really bad crash!” Or…someone posts a picture on Facebook or Twitter or lnstagram accompanied by a post that says something like this: “I just passed by this awful crash.” The victim’s family sees the post and accompanying picture before we can notify them in a proper way.
Here is another way that social media can be destructive during a crisis event. A person is in the hospital. That individual’s friends take it upon themselves to post details about the patient’s health status. There are several problems with such a choice. Does the family want that information posted? Is the information you are sharing accurate? I have a friend hospitalized right now being cared for by hospice. Well-meaning friends posted that she died. She has not died. Can you imagine how her family felt when they read the misinformation being posted with no regard for the truth being considered?
When a family has a loved one in the hospital that is critically ill, people will “inbox” them and ask: “has he passed yet?” I am serious. I could not possibly make this stuff up.
Here are a few good social media rules in times of crisis:
· Don’t post anything about someone who is hospitalized until you have secured permission from the patient or their family.
· NEVER, ever post pics of an accident scene. There is NO good reason to do that. It is sickening to be working at a serious crash scene and watch gawkers using their video app as they drive by. Grow up.
· If you are going to contact a family member of someone seriously ill, ask them what you can bring for dinner. DON’T ask them if their loved one has passed away.
· Think about what you are posting. Consider who will see it. Is it in good taste? Is your post helpful or is it just your way of spreading half-truths about someone else’s misfortune?
Let’s be supportive of each other. Let’s practice kindness and empathy. And most of all, let’s be respectful and considerate.