Tragedy Visuals on Social Media

When questioning the ethical uses of social media, there is rarely anything less delicate to post about than tragedy. Postings about these events should tread lightly with what there content entails. It Massachusetts Holds Moment Of Silence On One Week Anniversary Of Boston Bombingsbrings into question how you should go about engaging your audience in these times. One recent event was the Boston Bombings that had an overwhelming amount of social media content. I even remember the event basically swept the Twitter “Trend” board and mostly every post I saw during the event was related to this incident.

A fine line gets drawn when it comes to being the “first” to report a news story. In our “need to instantly know” society, we constantly seek information about events and we want all the details immediately. The problem that arises with these networks (especially major news networks) is when they try to be the first to report the details. They are taking the risk of reporting “inaccurate” news to the public, who can then easily re-share any of the information that was posted.


CNN made this mistake when they mentioned that arrests were being made in the Boston Bombings, then later on said there have been no arrests made. Major events like these are ones in which accuracy is basically everything If you are wrong or misinform the public, you lower your overall credibility and reputation.

In moving forward with actual “graphic” visuals of events, they should be thoroughly thought out before publications. When a broadcaster posted a picture of a victim in a hospital bed and captioned the picture with “’Like’” to wish him a speedy recovery is profoundly unethical. Reason being is that you are using a victim against his will. The boy is innocent in this event; he is merely a victim of a heinous crime. Brining something like this on top of the boy is inappropriate, especially by a broadcaster. The only way this ends up being ethical is if the boy provided consent or the family did it, in my opinion.

When using graphic photos on social media, it is important to incorporate a “warning” with the content. People shouldn’t have to see these graphic photos if they don’t want to. The hard part about this is these photos are sometimes seen prior to seeing the warning, or no warning is given at all. It’s easy to offend an audience when you post these types of controversial images, because not everyone feels they are appropriate. There really isn’t a right or wrong stance on this, considering journalists are encouraged to report the news as it happened.


The best way to go about it is to make sure people are aware of what they are seeing, prior to seeing it. It is not worth the risk of backlash because you fail to warn your audience that they are about to see something highly graphic. It’s important to always keep the audience in mind when you post, because something that isn’t “that bad” to you, could really be detrimental to others.


4 thoughts on “Tragedy Visuals on Social Media

  1. I completely agree that when it comes to graphic images, people posting should be mindful of that fact and either post a warning, or if unable not post it. When people post articles, they can tag the portion that says “No thumbnail” so that there is no image, they choose not to. I think that it is fairly selfish. Reading the words “Tragedy in Boston, bombing during marathon” would get a lot of views, the image isn’t necessary. I can understand that images do evoke more views, but a good title and description would work just as well. Great post!

  2. Thanks for a forthright post Gavin. You also generated a good comment from Amanda there.

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