Reposting News too Fast?

A hand holds a phone nd there are question marks emerging from the screen.
Reposting News too Fast?

Dear Ms. Smartphone: Is it bad to be too fast? I live in a multifamily building and don’t know all of my neighbors. But we all stay in touch through listserv communications on email. I reposted an announcement on the listserv when the building lost electric power on a weeknight. The utility had sent me a text that the electricity would be restored in two hours. A few minutes after I reposted the news, the lights came back on!  Now I feel like I posted too much and too soon.  Michael

Dear Michael: When it comes to emergency communications and security, communications can be either too slow or too fast.  It used to be that communications traveled way too slowly. There is a legendary story about an island visited by Europeans of different nationalities. Although WWI  had broken out, they did not know that they were at war with each other until a ship arrived several weeks later carrying a mail pouch and newspapers.

Today, as you suggest, we have an opposite problem. Information flies off our screens and phones before we have time to verify it or examine it for misinformation or malicious intent. When information travels too fast, it can be dangerous. It’s like shouting “Fire” in a movie theater leading people to stampede to closed-off exits. Fortunately, the consequences are seldom so dire. 


When it comes to emergency communications, the managers in multifamily buildings often subscribe to a service that will broadcast a single text or email alert. That would have been useful in the situation you describe. So, for the summer brownouts, you might investigate whether they have considered an alert system. That said, these group notifications require a front office to continually update the accuracy of information for landlines, cell phones, and email. Some residents are bound to be missed or opt out.

Given the absence of this group system, your notification seems justified. But, if you had been cooler and slower, you could have determined whether there was a time lag between the time the utility sent its message and it reached your phone. You could have gone to the utility website first to verify the timelines  but chances are that they did not update it either. 

Emergencies and Telecom:

Your letter does point to a useful role that phones can play in an emergency. Since there was no electricity to your building, the residents would literally be in the dark. They could not connect to Internet service, as that depends on having a modem plugged into the wall. They can, however, let phones do this work, providing they have a cellular subscription.

All in all, the speed of your communication did no harm. Perhaps it caused residents to dig out warm sweaters, candles and matches, thinking that they would be in the dark for a few more hours. You only tried to reduce their confusion and uncertainty, but with the quick turnaround, perhaps you personally lost some degree of credibility.  For better or worse, these are the times we live in. So it’s a good idea when it comes to emergency communications to assess the environment into which you are introducing information: will it inform people, help them adjust, or create a panic or stampede.