MH370: On tragedies and social media

By Karen Chin

On Saturday morning, the 8th of March, 2014, I woke up and was sickened by what I read when I did my daily check of my Facebook newsfeed. Apparently, a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing had not landed at its estimated time and location; it had just mysteriously disappeared off the radar, literally.


Source: Reuters, Flightaware

Source: Reuters, Flightaware


I felt my heart growing heavier and heavier as I clicked on more links shared by my Facebook friends who keep up with news (who in turn, indirectly become my news source). This was real. This is so close to home, and by the theory six degrees of separation, there will be some friends of mine (from the over 1,000 I added on my Facebook) who will be personally affected.


As the day wore on, I tried to distract myself from the horrific news by going on with my day, but nothing could deny the gloom. I checked my Facebook newsfeed more often than usual, with great big hope for good news, or at least some information to solve the mystery surrounding the whole event.


Emotions began to rise as people started getting sad, angry and paranoid. Then people started getting upset at others for commenting insensitively. Then the rumours and speculations started. Based on some of the weird happenings surrounding the flight, theories about terrorism was formed, posted publicly on Facebook and heatedly discussed.


I can’t deny that this event feels like history in the making. When faced with a situation like this, in this day and age of the availability of unofficial instant public journalism which usually carries news from a source that can’t or hasn’t been checked out, there are some things we should do and remember, as I have personally found out as a spectator to this great disaster.


First of all, remind yourself that there is nothing you can do except hope for the best.


There is the initial thing that people do when tragedy near home happens: You want to make sure that no one you know or love is caught in it.


Friends with family members who are flight attendants or who they knew were flying that day started to frantically call their loved ones immediately, not satisfied until they heard their voices.


Unfortunately, there are those who discovered the bad news: their loved one or distant family was on that flight.


After all is said and done, however, there’s nothing we can do now but wait and hope for the best. Keep calm and be grateful after checking that the people you know are safe.


Some say pray.


One of the Facebook status posts from one of my many Facebook friends who are praying for MH370 in their respective religions and ways.

One of the Facebook status posts from one of my many Facebook friends who are praying for MH370 in their respective religions and ways.


And I agree. My Facebook newsfeed has probably never seen the word ‘pray’ so much in a day. When we are helpless, there’s always a bigger power that we can always pray to. We need to let go and know that no matter what happens, it’s really happening and all that is going to happen is going to happen.


We can believe that all are in “good hands”. No matter what religion, no matter what belief, just pray. In helplessness, prayer is the only way we can help. There is strength in numbers, and it is so tragically beautiful to see the whole world come together for this group of people on flight MH370.


Read the news, but don’t spread more heartaches.


I couldn’t stop refreshing my newsfeed and clicking on links! I wanted to know, needed to know. However, some links shared were devastating to read at a time like this, even as someone uninvolved.


Political agendas, religious persecution, insensitive jokes or bratty outbursts. Everyone may be entitled to their opinions, but this is the best time to hold off on making things worse.


Offer simple, helpful comments and there is no need to go over the top.


Trolls will always be trolls, even the unintended ones.


The first thing I noticed besides the actual news and posts about the tragedy itself, was people telling other people to ‘be sensitive with their comments’.


I guess it really rings true that there are many types of people in the world. In this case, there are ones who are very careful with their words and choose to build and support others rather than tear them down; there will be some (like myself) who refuse to post anything about it on my Facebook although I feel very emotional about the whole thing; there will be those who are unintentionally insensitive and think that they are defusing the tension or that no one really reads their status anyway or perhaps are just plain ignorant. Maybe, in some sick way, some people actually do think they are being funny.


And to answer the song that goes “What’s so funny about peace, love and understanding?”, I would say that there’s nothing funny about them at all. We need more of all three.


Use your head and ignore petty people.


I was pretty riled up when I read a girl’s Facebook post about how “everyone should stop posting about MH370” and that she couldn’t even watch television because her parents were watching the news.


Comments like “let them all die” and “serves them right” regarding the passengers on the flight is terribly rude and insensitive; but for the rest of us who are mature adults, we should know that these are the rants of young, oblivious teenage girls who just want to watch MTV and text boys. IGNORE.


Facebook post of a girl which caused a lot of rage in cyberspace.

Facebook posting which caused a lot of rage in cyberspace.


Practice empathy, practice sensitivity.


When I was telling my boyfriend about this incident, he was nonchalant. I can understand that it doesn’t involve us, but when he asked me, “So what if I know about it? What difference would it make in my life? If I was in the next plane crash, would I be able to do anything about it? NO!”


I couldn’t answer it.


I know that being updated and concerned about this issue won’t make my life any better or worse. At least I know that I still have a heart. At least I know that I can empathise. I have a heart that cares for humanity, it hurts when it hears about the suffering of others. I feel for those who have their loved ones in that missing plane. I feel hurt when I know there’s a high chance of them never seeing them again. I’m empathetic (or sensitive) but I believe it’s better to stay that way.


Be realistic but don’t get irrationally paranoid.


Whatever the cause of the tragedy, we have to accept that these things happen. It has not been unheard of. The reason why it hits us this hard is because we never thought it could happen to “us”. The thought of going to the airport to board a flight now scares me a little, but then again, is this realistic fear or delusional fear?


On another note of being realistic, we have to have hope and don’t give up until there is proof that all is gone. Best bet is to be realistic, and actively begin preparing for the worst, grieve and start celebrating the lives that are on the flight.


Don’t let the prayers stop, it will still be long needed after the mystery is solved, for the souls departed and to pray for peace and comfort for the ones they left behind.


A screen banner in Kuala Lumpur International Airport, asking all to pray for the MH370 passengers and crew. - Bernama.

A screen banner in Kuala Lumpur International Airport, asking all to pray for the MH370 passengers and crew. – Bernama.


Reflect on life


This can happen to anyone anytime, and it will come as a shock and surprise.


Remember when people say ‘live everyday like it was your last’? That may be applicable to everyone on board MH370. Don’t take your loved ones for granted.


I started reflecting on my life. I started thinking about how it was if it was someone I loved was on that plane. I started thinking about how it would be if I were on that plane. What would I be thinking? Who would I be thinking of? What would I regret not doing before leaving this world?


A mother updates her Facebook with a photo of her sending her only son off at the airport to board flight MH370 which is now still missing. - Bernama.

A mother updates her Facebook with a photo of her sending her only son off at the airport to board flight MH370 which is now still missing. – Bernama.


No one was prepared for this. No one can ever be prepared for tragedy. This may seem small to some and some may feel unaffected, but always remember, this can happen to anyone, and when that day comes, would you need all the support you can get? Prayers from strangers? And people who will work hard to find your loved ones like they were their own?


Think about it and have a heart.


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