I wrote about my gratitude for social media during times like yesterday, when Paris was hit by a series of terror attacks.
I was relieved to receive reassurance of my friends’ safety through Facebook’s “I’m Safe” feature.
The hashtag #porteouverte went viral as a guiding beacon for those who were in the city for a night of what was initially supposed to be Friday night socializing but needed quick refuge and a safe haven as news of the attacks spread.
I’ve observed the pattern of our tech-savvy society to go to social media for community in times of crisis. I witnessed nothing different yesterday—a brilliant show of solidarity occurred coming from people worldwide sending communal love to the situation.
People took to Instagram, Twitter and Facebook looking for answers and showing solidarity with Paris—such as what happened during the Charlie Hebdo massacre.
As I stated, it’s important to have an outlet to show our oneness because thought and communal intention toward peace is powerful beyond measure when we may be at first inclined to freeze up and feel helpless during national disaster.
But yesterday’s social media response to Paris had one flaw that was potentially disastrous.
Initially started with the intention to spread the word of open homes to those seeking shelter when the scale of what Paris was in the midst of was uncertain, #porteouverte went viral beyond its benign purpose.
The hashtag #porteouverte was tagged in post after post in solidarity and in a show of support pointing to resources that Parisians could use.
This clogged the channels for help for people who truly needed it most in that very moment—a very untimely situation for those stuck in Paris seeking shelter, and unsure of when the end of the attacks would come. The point of the hashtag was simple: connecting those in Paris who needed somewhere safe with those in the city opening their doors.
Instead, it evolved into post after post from people not in France and not in the middle of the attacks, showing symbols of reverence for the “City of Light” and #porteouverte was frequently lobbed together with other hashtags including #PrayforParis.
I applaud the joining together of community both in Paris and from afar but I ask you to consider your use of social media during times of crisis. I get it, we just simply did not know that we could abuse a hashtag in such a way that could have dire circumstances. And neither did I. But this incident pointed my attention to the greater issue at hand. With the inevitable direction social media is taking our society, we look to our Facebook News Feeds in times of disaster. I am advocating for us to tease out our use of social media for solidarity and community and the use of social media for matters of safety during crisis.
A hashtag that went viral for those seeking shelter was ultimately clogged by those who wanted to do anything they could in support of offering shelter in Paris.
Author: Caitlin Oriel