How the Internet Voices our Reaction to Disasters: The Case of Notre-Dame de Paris

How the Internet Voices our Reaction to Disasters: The Case of Notre-Dame de Paris

How do people react in the face of global tragedies, such as the burning of the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral?

Anger, frustration, condolences and prayers… Everything is poured onto social media and the internet like a flooding river. This phenomenon shapes our perceptions towards tragic events by not only making us more aware of what’s happening, but bringing us closer, even when we’re thousands of miles away.

To better understand the role of the Internet during disasters, we have analyzed the trends of reviews and sentiment following tragedies, including the fire of the beloved Parisian symbol.


The Internet and Global Crises: What happens during and after the shock

Social media and new technologies have radically transformed the way people process disasters and tragedies, from terrorist attacks to natural disasters. Many studies delve into this phenomenon.

The University of Bamberg has published an in-depth study about the growth of online platforms, especially social media, in times of crisis:

  • The internet and social media allow us to find out more information, which is always updated in real time
  • There are the disaster-specific applications of channels, such as Facebook's "Safety Check", which increase the preference social media compared to traditional media. "At the same time, observed behaviour could be a consequence of those social media characteristics, that is, actors pursue certain paths of action because they are facilitated by the technology at hand."
  • Digital platforms facilitate and convey direct communication from institutional bodies, humanitarian organizations and emergency response associations
  • There is an element of trust between social network users, which in turn increases the perception of reliability about the information that is shared

"Technology, it's not a thing in and of itself, it's how people interact with it, it's how people use it," states Nigel Snoad, former senior advisor of the United Nations Humanitarian Office. He further reveals:

“Ultimately the trust that we have in each other, if we have connections and contacts and relationships and so forth, is part of the network that we use to respond to any emergency, if you're in a local community or if you're international responders coming in, as some of us were. And so those relationships are really how we build the bridges.”


The Notre-Dame Fire and Online Reactions on Social Media and Review Sites

In light of this data, we have analyzed the behavior of online users following the fire of Notre-Dame.

Tweets containing the hashtag #NotreDameCathedralFire have grown to 40,000 in France alone and continue to climb. This hashtag is currently the sixth most popular throughout the world among trending topics.

Travel Appeal has collected and analyzed online reviews about the cathedral, both on the day of the incident and 5 days before. On April 15th, the date of the fire, there was a surge in online comments. In fact, there were 314% more reviews compared to the average from the previous 5 days.

Google was the top channel used to leave reviews.




Faced in a moment of a global crisis, people gather around social media. We hope the internet and social channels are not only a place where people can stay informed, but unite together.