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Thursday, August 18, 2022 — Houston, TX

My Wey or the Highway: Avoid impertinence on social media in times of disaster

By Julianne Wey     9/6/17 4:54pm

Rice is a bubble — most students here will attest to that.

I don’t think it’s ever been more true than in this last week. My parents texted me constantly asking for updates; my grandpa was watching CNN’s Hurricane Harvey coverage from Taiwan; old friends I hadn’t spoken to in years called me out of the blue to ask if I was OK. I told them all the same thing: We’re fine on campus, we’re more than taken care of. One dinner last week, North Servery had three round of desserts (How?!).

But Rice is also home to many people from Houston, besides of course the faculty and staff. I went with one of my friends to his home in Bellaire and witnessed firsthand what many outside of Rice are currently dealing with. Awful smell aside, that includes probably months of waiting for insurance claims and repairs before being able to go back to some semblance of normal life at home.

In the throes of the hurricane, Dean Hutch sent out an email asking students to please not go wading into the waters at risk of bacteria, fire ants and who knows what else lurking in the murky tides. The Jones magister informed us that a Rice professor had happened outside one day during the storm and looked down to see an army of cockroaches crawling up her leg. Naturally, some people decided to venture into the waters anyway.

Now, while I personally think swimming around in West Lot is disgusting, I don’t really care. Do what you want in your own time — God knows we had seemingly endless free time last week — and it’s your body.

What bothered me was a slow but steady cropping up of Instagram posts that seemed to show off some individuals’ awesome adventures in the water with their floaties and canoes and galoshes.

First of all, that’s so extra. The fact that some people went to certain lengths to take not one, but multiple photos in various flooded areas with a number of prepared accessories, and then took the time to edit them on Instagram and choose some “clever” caption, boggles my mind. Second of all, I can’t imagine that someone whose home was damaged by Harvey would look at those photos and chortle at their cheekiness.

Yes, I know — it’s pesky and difficult to take into account every reaction to one’s posts. But at the same time, we all know that social media is in essence your public persona. In a day and age in which we follow people we don’t know personally on Instagram and friend Facebook users purely based on mutual friends (if at all), it’s rather clear that what you put on social media is what you’ve decided to show about who you are. Your social media is your personality, and that’s what most others will assume, whether or not that’s actually accurate.

I’m not from Houston, nor do I have relatives here. But some of the Instagram posts I saw made even me uncomfortable. I kept it to myself at first, thinking maybe I was just being overly judgmental, but multiple others commented a little tentatively in passing that, didn’t those posts come off a tad insensitive?

I guess if I were a little less lazy and a little more carefree, I would’ve considered venturing out to West Lot when it was flooded, if only to take a gander. Perhaps I would’ve taken a dip and risked it with the fire ants and cockroaches. Perhaps I would’ve belly-dived down a grass hill. But I really think it goes beyond poking fun and risks impertinence to stage some sort of photoshoot in the flood, as a result of something that proved deadly to many others outside of Rice campus.

There is a time and a place for brazenness — it might just not be now.

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