Ethics of an American Tragedy

I remember the day of the Boston Marathon Bombings very vividly. I got home from school, turned on the television and immediately texted my friend, whom I know has family in Boston, to see if everything was alright. Even though most of my days are spent on social media, this was one event that I didn’t hear about on Facebook first. However, for the rest of the time that the bombings were at the forefront of the news, most of that news came to me through social media.

In dealing with the news breaks of tragedies like this, people have many ethical dilemmas about what content to publish on social media and how that content might affect the audience. There are certain situations where someone’s heart is in the right place, but it comes off as in poor taste to the public. When a news broadcaster asked fans to “like” a photo of an injured boy on Facebook to let the boy know how many people care, it was met with some intense backlash. Even in situations that are bad, but maybe not to this extent, I always feel awkward “liking” a post with bad news. I would feel much more comfortable commenting to let the person know that I am thinking of them, rather than “liking” the post. I feel like this is what the broadcaster should have done to create the desired effect of his post, while also possibly eliminating any negative feedback. Although it could be annoying to see so many of the same message, people have the option to personalize it and truly let the boy know how they feel about him.

Courtesy of PA Media Group

In response to the image above that Ford posted to the first responders of the bombings, I saw nothing wrong with it. I can understand why people would think that Ford was doing this to push their own product, but I don’t believe they were. In an article with PR News Online, head of social media for Ford, Scott Monty said “if you manage social media for a brand, this would be a good time to suspend any additional posts for the day.” I don’t think Monty would have said that if his true intention was to sell a product during a catastrophic event like this. If people thought that Ford had an agenda more than sending out well wishes, I think they are cynical. It’s not unethical to thank someone on social media and Ford should not be made to feel bad about doing something good.

With every tragedy, there are going to be questionable moments of whether posting something on social media is ethical or not. If you’re unsure of how people will react, don’t post it. But most of all, think of every possible way the content could be misconstrued and do everything in your power to eliminate those possibilities.

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One thought on “Ethics of an American Tragedy

  1. Good advice in your conclusion there Steven!

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