Tuesday, 7 July 2015

The dark side of social media and the media bandwagon

They say that bad news travels fast and that has never been more true than now, with the high use of social media these days it takes seconds for stories to travel the world as people share and re-share news reports.

While this is obviously an effective means of sharing and raising awareness of something I can't help feeling quite alarmed at the effect this can have.  I spend a lot of time on social media, facebook in particular and I am shocked at the speed at which people rush to share something without checking the facts or the source of information, including the 'official' news outlets. 

Recently an 'attempted kidnapping' in a Cyprus hotel just 15 minutes from my house hit the headlines across the UK and I am stunned at the reaction it produced, even when it was announced that it didn't even take place. 

I watched as the story spread and was genuinely shocked and saddened by the reports and comments that it attracted in the days following. 

First of all, let me make clear that these things do happen around the world and we should be aware of our children and not live in a sense of false security, I do however assume that most of us are and take every precaution to assure that our children are safe.  Or course there are many people who do not, or they relax their watch on holiday,  but for these I'm not sure a news report or a facebook warning would actually change their ways unfortunately. 

I first noticed it when many friends on facebook shared a news report from the Cyprus Mail, it was all over my news feed within minutes. Of course I read the article immediately but I didn't share it, first of all there was really no need as EVERYONE else had but something held me back. 

I commented to my husband on why it was that bad news spread so fast, recently I have shared several positive  news stories about Cyprus and its the same few people every time who like and share them themselves. I posted a random status wondering why people only shared the bad news and asked 'Where's the positivity people?' 

I hate the scaremongering that happens and the speed at which things escalate without facts, and the fear that it creates and I wondered why it was that people seemed to want to focus on the negative. I had hesitated before posting the status but felt so strongly about it (of course saddened by the apparent bad news but wondering why people didn't equally share the good)   

I hesitated over posting it, mindful that I may be about to be shot down in flames for dismissing a serious incident, and as predicted I immediately received responses, one saying they were glad it had been shared as they live close to the hotel and now they know to watch their kids, and one saying they shared so I didn't become a newspaper article myself.  Like a big girl I backtracked slightly, apologized and went to bed. 

The next morning I got up to see newspaper reports with 'click bait' headlines
'Family flee in terror from Cyprus hotel after child abduction bid'
'Holiday makers forced to flee as families targeted by child snatchers'
'Dad tells of holiday terror as child snatchers attempt to abduct children from family hotel' 



I saw many posts in the Cyprus wedding planning groups, and on forums that I follow and they were full of panic and hysteria. I resolved not to get involved but I the more I read, the more it didn't add up to me. 

The stories were conflicting, and just didn't add up. Nationalities changed, numbers of people involved changed and people seemed to be jumping on the bandwagon left, right and centre. The police issued a statement, at first unfortunately only in Greek.  Many people here had come to the conclusion it was being blown out of all proportion and a few of us were trying to stop the hysteria that was growing. 

Then the UK media picked up the story, it was everywhere but it just didn't make complete sense. 

What most surprised me though was the unwillingness from people to consider it might have been blown out of proportion, even as the reports came saying so and anyone suggesting it  hadn't happened was told it was all a cover up by the police and government. 

'IT WAS ON THIS MORNING SO IT MUST BE TRUE'   was one comment I had shouted at me in a facebook group. 
'The BBC  / Daily Mail / Mirror / ITV had run the story so it MUST have happened' and so on.

Of course I had no idea of the facts, there were (and still are) very few people who were there and know EXACTLY what went on, but WHY is everyone so quick to assume the worst?

It makes me so sad that people don't think of the damage inaccurate stories can cause, and you cannot point this out as 'it's better to be safe than sorry' 

Once the official statement was released much fewer people shared that than the original story, I guess there's no drama there. 

If the allegations had been true then of course the story needed to be told, and investigated but it turned into a witch hunt causing needless worry to many people and damaging peoples perception of the area.  It's a shame that the British press can get away with printing unsubstantiated stories. 

Bad things can happen anywhere, at any time and surely everyone with some common sense is vigalent especially away from home,  but please people don't panic, and don't believe all you read or hear, and don't always assume the worst. 


Read the Cyprus Government response here - Cyprus rejects Child Abduction Claims

There is also a much more articulately written article than mine - Cyprus Abduction Scare - A near kidnapping or near lynching.


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