One thing is clear: Official communication needs to improve.
An incident involving three students and a pair of scissors made the news this week but getting to the bottom of the story has been anything but easy.
We, along with many parents, heard about it first on social media, with the first notice to parents from the school worded so obliquely as to be almost impenetrable to anyone trying to figure out what had actually occurred.
But all that does, in practice, is allow rumours to run rampant, which they have been doing via social media in this case.
We’ve read online everything from people talking about serial killers in the making to the incident being described as a violent stabbing with blood everywhere. None of that is true, by the way.
Social media can be a great thing. It can be a good place for people to gather and talk about things that concern them.
It can be an excellent way to network with others who share your concerns.
In this case, a lot of people were turning to it just to find out what was going on.
Unfortunately, that’s something that can quickly turn into the old game of ‘telephone’ where one person in a circle starts a message by whispering it to the person next to them, and so on until the message completes the circle back to the person who started it.
Needless to say, the message that comes back never really resembles the message that went out.
There’s also a lot of second- and third-hand he said, she said, they heard, that people have to be careful not to take as gospel.
But it doesn’t help when it’s hard to get good, solid, reliable information.
The RCMP were predictably tight-lipped about their investigation into the incident, and it took days to get school district officials to say anything.
The school did, to its credit, hold parent information meetings after the whole thing blew up on social media.
But there is a lesson that can be learned here.
It’s best to put the truth out there, as quickly as possible.
Plain language is always best, but it is being trained out of people until almost every official communiqué from anywhere sounds like it was written with the purpose of obscuring the truth, even if that’s not the case.
When you don’t do that, the information vacuum will be filled somehow, and increasingly that’s done via online gathering sites.