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EDITORIAL: No virtual compassion for missing Jennifer Hillier-Penney


Social media is a strong medium for sharing news and opinions.

Northern Pen Editorial

But it has a dark side, where comments and misinformation can lead people astray or stir negative emotions.

Over the past two weeks, the disappearance of Jennifer Hillier-Penney has been front and centre on the Northern Peninsula and across the province.

Normally, when there's a missing person in Newfoundland and Labrador, it's followed up with a notice the person has been found. Sometimes the outcome is favourable. Other times, it's not.

These past few weeks have been difficult for people in the St. Anthony area, as they wondered what happened or where Hillier-Penney was.

As of Friday - when this editorial was written - these questions remained unanswered.

Hillier-Penney is well known and well liked. Her disappearance has sent shockwaves throughout the town, especially after the RCMP deemed it suspicious.

That resulted in some anxiety in the community, as people no longer wanted to walk alone at night or leave their doors unlocked - quite unusual in this town.

The Northern Pen has been updating its readers on the search. The RCMP has confirmed all of our facts, and those who have reached out have not pointed fingers in any direction.

The same can't be said on social media.

Last week, a comment was posted on our editor's Facebook page about a member of Hillier-Penney's family. The post was from someone from outside the community who does not know the family or the case, a person who bluntly blamed an individual for Hillier-Penney's disappearance. The comment was removed as soon as possible, but not before several people had the chance to read and respond.

That's the dark side of social media. Facebook and Twitter are valuable for updating people on the search, but yet so flawed and disruptive at spreading unproven information.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but making accusations and pointing fingers is not what the community - or most importantly Hillier-Penney's loved ones - needed at that time.

Hillier-Penney has two daughters, a husband, siblings, parents, in-laws, friends and a long list of people who love her. These people are among those who are reading these comments.

Compassion seems to be lost these days and that's especially unfortunate in difficult times.

If you use social media, please be responsible and think before you post.

Our community will be much better for it.

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