0169B: The (Social) Media Reaction After Yolanda / Haiyan

So we've become a CNN story. 

And when I say CNN story I mean the likes of Anderson Cooper have done live reports on the ground and the President has been interviewed by Christiane Amaonpour. It's like the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina again when the folks on the ground are scrambling to figure out how to organize relief efforts while the rest of the world watches impatiently. 

Local social media chatter can be pretty vicious when it comes to dissecting the news and setting some pretty high expectations from pretty much everyone and anyone who makes the mistake of coming under the scrutiny of the public eye. So naturally the President and the rest of the national government are taking a public relations beating right now. And it's probably not helping that he has dedicated some of his precious media time throwing the affected local government units under the bus and quibbling over what the casualty estimates should actually be.

Given it has been 5 days since Typhoon Yolanda (International Name Haiyan), it's par for the course that the social media chatter is turning vicious. The government is being lambasted by people who have the time to rant about these sort of things online. People are getting called for being too happy, posting anything about their donations or volunteer work and whether or not public figures (mainly celebrities) are taking up too much media time as publicity stunts or not doing enough since they aren't visible. 

Long story short, there is no way anyone can win the public relations war right now. 

At the end of the day, we can't really blame people for how they seem to be taking things online. A lot of the anger, resentment and negativity comes from people being largely disillusioned by the government given the yet-to-be-resolved pork barrel scandal and he general feelings of helplessness about the entire situation. Because we don't know what else we can do to help people down there, those feelings of frustration are being channeled into social media. And when under the influence of extreme emotion, we all have the potential to become internet trolls.

This is not in defense of anyone at this point - I'm sure there's a lot of blame to go around and a lot of things that we can do better. However, we need to remember that we are still a third world country with limited resources. We lack the kind of operational expertise in managing a wide scale humanitarian crisis like this - one that spans so many provinces and millions of affected families. Then again, few countries have that kind of infrastructure in place. Yes we could have handled things better. But I don't think there was much that could be done to prepare for a storm of this magnitude. And I don't think any relief operation can be quickly mobilized to help so many people at the same time. We saw a similar problem with Hurricane Katrina. As a race, humankind has yet to fully master dealing with natural disasters of this magnitude.

Do everyone a favor - let's not add to the negative noise. Let's focus on solutions and trying to help out or encourage others to help out. There are some great stories of hope out there as well - we could use more of that. This is not to let those accountable off the hook or anything. There's plenty of time for that sort of finger-pointing once we get past this phase of the crisis. For now we need to help those in need first and we need to contribute to that sort of a positive, supporting conversation instead of adding to the complaints.