Is Social Media a Blessing or a Curse? – #ParisAttacks

With increasing numbers of digital platforms available to share information and a myriad of devices upon which people can find it, there is more out there than ever before. In turn this means there is more unverified information available causing problems. This is especially the case when there is an attack on a city unfolding and emotions are running high.

This post aims to make us aware of the multiple behaviours exhibited on social media so we can act in the most effective way and avoid falling into areas that muddy truth.

A rumour that a refugee camp in Calais had been set on fire surfaced last night along with images. Unsubstantiated claims placed anti-migrant activists as the cause of the fire.

As news of the fire spread across social media and tensions rised further, it was revealed that the photos being used were old.

The Daily Mail confirmed there was a fire but the cause was unknown. Users reported the possibility of wind. The BBC did not confirm. The story is uncertain.

News reporting during a fast-paced sensitive event is incredibly difficult especially when there is masses of data circulating through social media. Mainstream media is not perfect but there is a fact-checking process involved.

It is crucial for users to understand whether information has been validated before sharing. Speculation and conspiracies are also unhelpful during this time.

Political Gain

These users may make accusations of who is responsible before this is verified or push forward their own policies as Donald Trump did. It is not the time for these behaviours.

Comparison of Violence

Some use the incident making comparisons to other conflicts happening in the world saying “this is everyday in… but no-one cares”. People do care. These users are proof of that. Solidarity and support is needed for those cause. But delegitimize the pain of those in Paris will not do it.


Terrorist attacks cause detriment to social cohesion. Some fear their entire community will be subject to hate because of the actions of the culprits. They react by distancing themselves and rightfully condemning the attack. These people are labelled “apologists” by others who are defensive. Already a divide is created before the fascists approach.


On Facebook I wrote a post asking people to be compassionate. A man responded saying the EU is like Hitler for allowing migrants, in particular Muslim refugees in. It is these people and their toxicity that brings hate in this world. They thrive on social media at this time adding harmful rumours to the tirade of speculation. Somehow these fascists do not see that refugees are running from the attackers themselves.  Report them and call them out.


Action must be taken but some users insist on action without any full understanding of terrorism, the culprits or the state of Paris. Subsequently they have no tangible actions and it’s futile. Often these users pass judgement on those who use social media to share love, thoughts and prayers.

Contrary to the problems, social media can be a powerful tool to help:

Facebook’s Safety check

Facebook rolled out it’s safety check function allowing users in the area to check in as “safe” sending a notification to their friends. This is a quick effective way for individuals to tell their connections they are ok during a time where they may be bombarded with messages/calls and phone networks may be overloaded.


This “open door” hashtag #PorteOuverte has been used by users in Paris to offer shelter to those who need it. This is an example of how helpful social media can be if used right.

Kindness and Love

Offering love and prayers is a sign that although we may be miles away, the people are in our thoughts and we wish peace for them. Some users loathe these offerings. To some it may offer support, to others maybe not. Surely, if there is a possibility it can help, it is worth a shot.

Improving our social media habits

It is difficult for people to know what to do especially when they feel pain and have a genuine desire to help.

There are three keys things.

  1. Sharing helpful verified information
  2. Being aware of our own social media habits and the consequences of them
  3. Being sincere in our wishes

For example, if you sincerely wish to help, informing your network about #PorteOuverte is helpful but using the hashtag 20 times on Twitter floods the network. If you do that, your tweets will be unhelpful to someone using the hashtag to seek help. Your tweet will be another tweet they have to pass before finding someone who can offer safety. That costs time and time is something people in danger do not have.

It takes a while to understand and adjust our habits but in doing so, we can utilise social media better during horrendous time and avoid causing detriment.

Wishing peace for Paris. Parisians have our love.


One thought on “Is Social Media a Blessing or a Curse? – #ParisAttacks

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