Social media in times of crisis


My heart is breaking for the village of South Webster. When tragedy hits in a small community, it hits hard. I don’t really have the words to describe how deeply this community has been affected by loss and hardships over the past few years.

Earlier this week, my husband Ryan and I were sitting at home, getting ready for bed. I was scrolling through Facebook when I started seeing status after status that said things like “Praying for Webster,” and “Keep our community in your prayers.”

Ryan went to South Webster, he grew up there and we’re getting ready to move back. We’re involved in the community and we love it very much. We were obviously concerned because many of our friends and family members live there.

Seconds later, I got a text from my sister. A young woman, just a year younger than I, who lived in South Webster passed away in a tragic circumstance. Not 5 minutes later, my Facebook feed was filled with condolences for the family from those in Webster and the surrounding towns.

When it comes to social media and death it can be both a blessing and a curse. I went through a similar ordeal when my father passed away in an ATV accident two years ago. Before I even knew what happened, before I could reach my family, my feed was filled with “RIP’s” and “So Sorry’s.”

In my case, my sisters called me, scared, because they couldn’t understand what had happened, why was everyone saying that our dad was dead? Was there an accident?

This is not the way that anyone should find out about a loved one passing.

How would anyone feel, if he or she were hit with such a reality shift that a lifelong friend, a treasured mentor, even a casual acquaintance—any relation—had passed away through what seems like such an impersonal, casual platform, like Facebook?

And while you may be mourning the loss of the person, it’s important to step outside your grief, momentarily to think of the family members who may not know.

With my dad’s passing, I appreciated social media, and all of the prayers and condolences that came from it. But in an instant, our grief was broadcast to hundreds of strangers and their friends.

And the same goes to the family in South Webster grieving the loss of their loved one, in an instant, everyone knew.

While these platforms are great for uniting friends in mourning, offering support and prayers, and reliving memories, it’s important to take a moment to consider the families involved in these incidents.

Place yourselves in their shoes, think before you post. Do not post rumors, do not spread speculation, wait until the family has addressed the situation. Give them some time to process before sharing what happened with others. If you need to express your feelings, be careful about posting names immediately.

I can’t imagine the pain and the heart-ache that this family is experiencing. In these times, be considerate and surround people with love, kindness and care.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a crisis, there is help available. Reach out, and I’m sure you will find a hand willing to help pull you out of the darkness. By calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) you’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area, anytime 24/7.

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By Ciara Conley

[email protected]

Reach Ciara Conley at 740-353-3101 ext 1932

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