The role of Facebook during times of crisis

By: Andrea Mellendorf


Source: SeerOmega

We all know (and love) social media for the ways in which it enables us to connect instantaneously with the world around us, gather news, and keep in touch with our loved ones all over the world. During times of tragedy and crisis, we turn to social media for these things with a very different sense of urgency. When tragedy strikes, you may find yourself on Twitter, looking for quick updates from friends or family, on Facebook looking for Facebook Live feeds, or elsewhere looking for news updates. One of my personal favorites, and arguably the most valuable features available on social media during times of crisis is Facebook Safety Check, the feature that enables people to mark themselves as safe on their Facebook page.

A few weeks back, when I first heard that violence had hit the Ohio State University campus, I immediately thought of two acquaintances I have who live on or near the campus. I looked on their Facebook’s to see if there were updates from them. Nothing. I kept waiting. It wasn’t that long before I received a push notification on my phone that one of them had marked themselves as safe through Facebook’s feature. Relief. Soon, the second person who was on my mind did the same thing.

I had a similar experience during the terror attacks in Paris a little over a year ago. At almost the same time I first learned about the attacks, a high school classmate stationed in the area marked themselves as safe.

The fact of the matter is that we live in a world where tragedy happens—and happens when we least expect it. Facebook’s “safe” feature allows for quick communication and an effective way of letting your entire friends list of people who love and care about you let you know that they are OK. Although we all hope we never need to use it, the feature is a smart edition to the social media platform.

We use social media to stay as up to date as possible about people, news and trends. With Facebook’s safety features, we are able to keep up with the well-being of our loved ones through just one click on their end and a push notification on ours. This feature is just one example of the many ways in which social media enhances our communication and provides benefits that go far beyond memes and silly videos.

So thank you, Facebook. Thank you for giving people an efficient way of letting hundreds of worried people know they are OK all at once. Thank you for thinking of your stakeholders and what may benefit them in times of crisis, and thinking beyond the photo sharing and memes that we typically use Facebook for. Thank you.

Andrea Mellendorf is a senior and serves as the Chapter President for EMU PRSSA. She previously has served as the Chief Financial Officer and Vice President of Special Events and Programs for EMU PRSSA, and as an intern for the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum. Andrea currently is the Social Media Operator for The Honors College where she manages their Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and for the College of Arts and Sciences, where she manages their Facebook and Twitter. Connect with Andrea on Twitter – @AndreaMell!


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