The panic of silence

My heart goes out to all affected by this latest attack. The pattern is emerging and it’s deeply worrying: on the eve of an election, an attack attempts to instil widespread fear and shove public opinion into knee-jerk defensive, entrenched voting. Let us hope voters understand the trap and rise above it.

Meanwhile, FB seems all to happy to add to the noise: the “mark as safe” function is designed to reassure friends and family of the loved ones’ well-being, but it actually may end up doing the opposite. If one does not mark him/herself “safe” IMMEDIATELY (i.e. if one dares leave FB even DURING an attack), friends and family may start freaking out. “Why is he not marking himself as safe?…. Fifteen minutes and he still hasn’t marked himself as safe”…

Don’t get me wrong: I do know the anguish of not hearing from a loved one in a crisis, and yes, social media can bring relief. But this expected exercise in absolute and immediate scrutiny becomes perverse quite quickly: rather than reassuring us that our loved ones are OK, it amplifies the absence of the ones who may be too distracted, too busy, unaware, elsewhere, offline, sleeping, praying, helping others. Just what we needed now, the online panic of silence.