A Case for Personal Media

Posted By Alice Marujo on January 16, 2015

We all heard about the recent Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack. And in this age of public tragedy, social media has taken over and is the main way we connect to information. But does it help getting better information? Does it help making sense of the information?

Last week, nearly 4,000 miles from my Parisian home, I found out for myself.

Wednesday January 7, 8:40 a.m.
As I am starting my day off with my usual routine—reading my emails and browsing the home page of Le Monde, my favorite French daily newspaper—my heart stops. I am experiencing a strange feeling of déjà vu, back when I heard about 9/11. I suddenly become schizophrenic…hearing my voice conscientiously answering my clients, watching my hand waving at my colleagues for a morning greeting while my eyes are desperately and frenetically reading other newspapers in need of a different version of the facts. The French ones first, of course, Liberation, Le Figaro, to be at the core of what is happening. The New York Times, Time Magazine and even Yahoo! News, trying to find another version of the story, one that could comfort me and prove that my eyes are wrong. The shock is so violent that I can’t even focus on the first paragraph of each article I am trying to read. I am six hours behind and I have the urge to know. Now. I feel disconnected and so close at the same time.

If with new technologies we can hear from our beloved ones in real time, why am I still learning the news from a newspaper? Probably because everybody I know in Paris is “in it”. Living it. Dumfounded. Their sudden absence is more meaningful than words, their silence more deafening than any cry could be. But I do need to share and forward Le Monde’s main story to my husband. I send him the link without making any comment, not even a “did you see this?” What for? Of course he knows, he was at his desk since 6:30 am, probably trying to digest the news the same way I am doing it right now. I am speechless, and so is my keyboard.

Thursday
Morning again—my emails, Le Monde—and my heart stops beating. There is a hostage situation in Paris, not 5 minutes from where I used to live. My husband sends me an email with one single sentence: “so selfishly happy and relieved that you moved to join me and are not in this supermarket. I love you.” I refresh Le Monde all day long to see if there is anything concretely new. Their news wire is swamped with too much info from too many sources.

I am thinking of my closest girlfriends who still live in this neighborhood. We use WhatsApp (our chat is called “Philly-Paris”) to daily stay in touch despite the distance. This is our own private news wire. I am also G-chatting with two of my former Parisian colleagues to take the temperature. My parents simultaneously sent me an email: they are supposed to leave for a trip. The cab was able to drive them to the airport, but Paris is now in a lockdown and the driver can’t go back.

Sunday
There is a massive gathering in Paris. I wish I could be there and decide to hang a “#Je suis Charlie” sign on my American front door as a sign of support. I am virtually with my friends who text me pictures of the crowd and selfies, their children on their shoulders. I can follow their progress as they are trying to make their way to the rallying point. Later on the day, I ask my sister where she was: she sends me a picture and comments: “It was gigantic.” When evening in Paris, I FaceTime my best friend and my parents to get their comments, their experiences, their take. With a human face.

A week into the horror, newsfeeds after newsfeeds, media after media, days after days, that’s what I was after: a human face. A real conversation. Because when your home is in danger, who could you trust more than your own inside sources? Think about it.

Alice Marujo is a Senior Account Executive at Karma, native Parisian and avid WhatsApp-er.