How to Deal With Social Media When Someone Goes Viral

(Hint: boundaries and empathy will get you far)


Tragedies on all scales tend to go viral. These sad and catastrophic events online let us *somewhat* experience what it is like to go through crises and chaos. We can observe from afar while drinking our cup of coffee. What we do while drinking that cup of coffee is what ensures whether we are adding to the chaos, or helping the people involved. We can help people build their resilience, or we can bring them down more.

Are you there to support? Are you there to help in some way? Or are you there to pursue your own agenda? We all mean well (ok the 99% of us who are not bots or trolls. ha!), and want to support people going through trauma, but there are good and bad ways to do it.

I've done the TEDx and LOTS of seminars on how to handle social media when something bad happens, based mostly on the fact that I have seen some @#$&. (For those who don't know me well, my TEDx talk is at the end of this. I need to do some updates to what I have learned in the last decade, so I may apply to do another one.)

Since the situation in Ukraine started and has, for lack of better phrase, made some people “go viral”, I've seen two things happen on a much larger scale on social:

  1. People are struggling with how to best support the people they follow, but who they don’t know personally.

  2. Requests are coming from people who've suddenly gone viral. They’re overwhelmed with tons of new followers, and are now begging these new followers not to send messages with simple "how are you" and who then demand a response. They also suddenly feel like they are responsible for spreading correct information about a situation. It is a huge weight on their shoulders while they’re already stressed.