Life, Death, and Social Media
A few months ago, a dear friend found herself facing every mother’s worst nightmare. A call was received from a doctor in the foreign country where her son was traveling informing her that he was hospitalized after being in a serious accident; he had suffered a brain injury and was in a coma. She was asked to make her travel plans and arrive as quickly as possible.
The doctor explained, “If he makes it through the first 24-hours, the next 48-hours would be slightly less dangerous—and would mean a good chance of full recovery.” And miraculously, he survived the first 72-hours and the family found they were simultaneously cautiously optimistic and completely overwhelmed. The unexpected shock and seriousness of the situation, combined with a barrage of concerned inquiries, seemed impossible to manage.
The family combined their social media skills and made a virtual communication plan. One person became the voice of the entire family via blog updates which allowed those of us so far away to feel connected and a little closer.
After seventy-two hours passed, the reality of the long-term recovery and required care became very real and daunting. The daily hospital costs were staggering and the family, unfortunately, did not have the resources to continue the necessary long-term care without outside help.
Again, social media and the family’s digital community was the resource they turned to — after a few Facebook posts went viral, supporters raised the funds needed to pay for his hospitalization and bring him home. Today, he is still recovering from a serious brain injury. No one in his family ever dreamed they would use social media in this context. But, most importantly and surprisingly to the family, they did not comprehend how many people— close friends and family, their networks, and even a few anonymous patrons— cared enough to help them when all resources were spent, and the situation felt dire.
For me personally, I felt empowered and grateful to help. It changed my perspective from helpless and hopeless to proactively supportive and action-bound. For a family I care so much about, I was desperate to help, and it was so wonderful to see I was not alone. Within a short amount of time, we were able to raise awareness, collectively support, and crowd-source the funds to give this family a chance to come home and recover.
Without the current iterations of social media connectivity, I cannot imagine how we would have turned this around for the family so quickly! Crisis management plans, be it family-oriented or business, are imperative for accurate communication. As the years go, and we see businesses build crisis management plans for their external outlets (and trust us, we’re building these for companies day in and out), we are going to see a rise in family crisis plan management as well. Instant connectivity can be just as destructive with incorrect information as it can be helpful with well-thought out, proactive plans. In both your professional life, and your personal life, sit with those around you and build a plan that works for you.