Social Media a Tool for Safety in Mexico

For the past couple years the problems of drug-related fighting that occur in the US border area of Mexico has been in the news. The Mexican towns on the northern border are more and more affected by the violent mafias, and because transporting and selling the illegal drugs is profitable, different mafias fight to gain control of the system. Now things are getting much worse and the population in Mexico is very concerned about how to deal with this problem.

I was chatting online with a Mexican friend of mine in Torreón, a city in northern Mexico, who told me:

“I’m very sad. My city is not as it used to be. We can’t have fun anymore– for example, all the clubs are closed. There are killings and shootings everyday. The mafia have guns that are more powerful than the Mexican military and the police department.

“More than 80 percent of the people who die are innocent. The cartels are here in my city and the situation just gets worse. Between 10 to 18 people are killed every day. This week my friend facebooked me and said that more than 100 people our age died.

“I avoid to walk by some government building because they are being attacked. I am scared. Please pray for us.”

She was also explaining to me why social media is starting to be used more and more. Apparently most of the news and the TV programs there do not want to tell the entire truth because of fear that it would cause panic in the Mexican population, and to preserve the image of the country.

Therefore, because of the lack of information people have started to use social media to communicate about the drug-related fighting and share what they have seen and experienced. My friend told me that she learns much of the information now through Twitter and Facebook. She emphasized that she relies more on Facebook because it is more popular than Twitter.

Residents are trying to help each other by alerting their friends and family of horrible things that are happening.  For example, a video was created and posted on YouTube with the idea to help the residents to create anonymous Twitter accounts to be able to anonymously report the locations of where the drug cartels are active. This would help citizens to avoid this location, and help the police and military to go to the location and fight with the mafia.

Social media is becoming a safety tool for the Mexican population. Many of them are constantly checking the online information.

Even though social media is helping the residents, they should also be alert to the risks of social media. My friend explained why:

“Social media is great and I use it all the time. I read the information and I post information if I see something that seems suspicious. But social media is kind of dangerous too. Because we receive some invitations to become friends with some people that we don`t know and the person who just requested to be our friend can be a guy from the cartel.

If we accept, they can see our friends and contacts. They can learn about our life, which is really dangerous. Here in Mexico the news programs are always recommending to block strangers, and be careful with the information we share on Facebook. The cartels are using social media to avoid the police.  But I still think that social media is the best way to help me knowing what is happening.”

After talking to my friend about the drug violence situation in Mexico and the use of social media among the residents, I came to the conclusion that social media is being seen as more positive than negative. Even though there is an alert regarding the danger of social media in the drug war I strongly believe that social media is the better place for Mexican citizens to get and share information.

A few years ago I worked as a journalist in Brazil, and during my experience I was disappointed in how things work, at least in Brazil, in terms of the manipulation of the information in the news. I thought that as a journalist I would be able to say the truth of things out loud but it was an illusion. The articles were edited so many times that at the end half of the information was gone. But now through the social media we can get more detailed information about events at the time they are happening.  So I can understand how in the case of the drug war in Mexico it is better to have the social media as an information sharing tool, even knowing the dangers of it.