The 6.3 magnitude earthquake that rocked some parts of Mindanao last Wednesday evening sent people scampering out into the streets and open areas, out of their residences, the shopping malls, restaurants and other places of business. No joking matter this, a hospital had to evacuate its in-patients, thereby exposing them to the elements, while in another city, a huge shopping mall caught fire right after the said earthquake. (It is still undetermined if the quake indeed had caused it.)
After about five minutes, when it appeared things were going back to normal, a new perspective of “normal” took over center stage. The social media aftershocks of the earthquake had begun.
First posted were mere exclamations that detailed the magnitude of the quake and statements about the tremors that followed. Then came pictures and videos of people in the streets, evacuation lines in and outside a mall, and much later, a beach front showed throngs panicking over a sudden receding of the tide. The latter may have been an inconclusive assessment of the situation, as it was indeed low tide, but then thereafter, fears of tsunami began to deluge the news feeds. Videos after all, especially those from the ground, carry with it a semblance of truth that indeed, maybe something ominous was coming.
Replicate these scenes everywhere, and what have we got? Panic. Friends say that the reaction of turning to social media, knee-jerk or not, is understandable, if not entirely natural. Being worried for family members or friends who are still unaccounted for, especially in areas near or inside ground zero, and posting these through public and private messages elicits speedy responses, as almost everyone is online these days.
However, some pronouncements carry with it that ‘you-heard-it-first’ kind of mentality that is really the crux of all this panic.
This mentality of being first on the scene, or being the source of anything worth anyone’s general interest may be an instinctive attribute that’s not really up there with genuine concern and fretting over loved ones. They are not in the same league, although concern for others is often used as an excuse to justify the former.
It is deeply self-serving, seeking attention or acceptance, because if one looked hard at it, the bottom line actually reads, “Look at me” and of course, click “like” over what I have posted.
The analysis might be a bit subjective I know but, real story here, during the previous earthquake, a friend had jokingly posted within seconds, “Hah, I’m first. Earthquake!” How many has ever thought of that?
But back to the social media storm, if not for the timely and official announcement of the disaster risk reduction and management of the city over radio and social media, that there was no tsunami warning, the panic would have continued on into the night.
Not to take anything from the responders and those who took time to appease the confused and fearful netizens, pro-active measures, such as drills and post-quake scenarios, may have been conducted all over but they are still, hardly given serious thought by the residents and community members alike. The Wednesday earthquake may be a thing of the past for some, but for everyone, let us treat it as our wake-up call. Only this time, let’s pray we get our priorities and message relays right.