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Social Media Can Allay Fears… But Can Also Cause Them

​Do you remember Hurricane Irene? It was supposed to be the big doomsday storm that would destroy New York City last August. At the end of the day, while it did cause damage, it was nowhere near as big as it could have been. However, it did leave millions of people in the dark without any easy access to information.

Do you remember Hurricane Irene? It was supposed to be the big doomsday storm that would destroy New York City last August. At the end of the day, while it did cause damage, it was nowhere near as big as it could have been. However, it did leave millions of people in the dark without any easy access to information.

Unless, of course, they used social media. My power company was tweeting up a storm (pun intended) and getting all the necessary information out at the speed of light. So, for the few days that the power was out, panic never set in.

Therefore, it came as no surprise when I read that Australian researches have determined that social media eases the psychological damage in disasters caused by rumors. It makes perfect sense: rumors only cause damage when information is not available. Therefore, any new mode of communication will naturally help. The fact that this information is created by regular people also gives a valuable new perspective on the disaster, placing it in context.

However, what the study does not take into account is how social media can actually facilitate the spread of rumors as well. During the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster, there were countless rumors on social media that the entire country of Japan was going to be unlivable due to the radiation fallout. This naturally caused a great deal of psychological damage and showed the limitations of relying on social media.

Therefore, I feel that social media should be treated as just another communication vector during a disaster, neither superior nor inferior to any other kind of communication. Any other view would be dangerous.

Please contact social media agency fishbat for more information about what you’ve just read.

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