Take the Good With the Bad Online

This week I had an interesting and intense conversation with someone who was thrown into social media due to a terrible circumstance, and who has experienced both the good and the bad of interacting with people online. Dan Harrington and his family live in Virginia, and in October of 2009 his 20-year-old daughter Morgan disappeared after attending a Metallica concert. To rally the community for leads and search volunteers, a comprehensive digital network was set up—with the help of Levick Strategic Communications—which included a Web site, blog, Facebook and Twitter. Harrington and his wife Gil would blog their thoughts daily, and the outpouring of support was massive: 660,000 people visited the site in the first few weeks of the launch.

Because of numbers like that, Harrington is pretty bullish on social media, but he also told me about the darker side: people who seemed “psychotic,” posting crazy comments about conspiracy theories and such. Upon Googling “Morgan Harrington” I came across quite a few of what I’d say were inappropriate, ugly comments around the case. A few weeks ago I asked the question on our Facebook page if the Internet was responsible for the tragedy in Tucson. Most came to the Web’s defense. After listening to Dan Harrington, I’d have to agree—but you must take the good with the bad.

Look for the case study next week in PR News.

–Scott Van Camp