The real tragedy in The Vanishing at The Cecil Hotel on Netflix was how internet users became ruthless in their pursuit of “truth.” In this four-episode series, two characters emerge–Elisa Lam and the Cecil.
Elisa was a Canadian, a student, and a Tumblr blogger. She micro-blogged in the same way many of the early bloggers did when blogging was young—transparently, authentically. Her Tumblr was self-expression and connection. This is refreshing, considering that most blogs now are about selling you something. We are led through strange events, including the history of this Skid Row hotel.
Live interviews from a former manager, a former maintenance worker, police, the coroner, psychologists, Youtubers, bloggers, historians, and other “web sleuths” led us through the Cecil Hotel’s dark history and the strange journey of Elisa. The series seemed to present the story similarly to how the public heard the information as it was happening. This is good story-telling, giving us the right ambiance.
When the last episode plays out, and her body is found floating in the water tank, you are left feeling sad for the family who endured the media coverage as well as the victims of assumptions made by people online.
Morbid, a death metal musician, was mobbed online with hateful messages and death threats as people assumed by his music and his stay at the hotel that he killed Elisa. Hundreds of death threats and messages peppered his Youtube account. The Mexican FBI even briefly visited him at his home. This drove Morbid to an unsuccessful attempt at taking his life. To this day, Morbid said in the interview, he has trouble getting back into his art. He says no one apologized to him for the cyberbullying and the pain it caused.
From this, I felt we could learn some lessons from the Vanishing…
- Hotel Cecil was located in Skid Row and housed people like Richard Ramirez. Elisa Lam was under-medicating as bipolar 1 and hallucinating, acting out, and being strange. No one thought to question her behavior or get help because it was the Hotel Cecil—a hotel where the unknown was an everyday occurrence.
- Always Google map or Google earth a hotel before staying. Stay on Main, and Hotel Cecil shared the same elevator. It was not two different hotels, just two distinct hotel experiences to gain more business. It was still dangerous for a tourist.
- The police do not share all their information, and the media is usually wrong or has an agenda.
- Do no harm. Having a social media platform is a form of power.
- Don’t obsess over bloggers or any other social media personality.
- Think of the family of the one who vanished or died. I can’t even imagine how they felt watching all this unfold online and on television.
- Use social media to connect and help each other.
- Your words on social media will live long after your time here on earth is over. Make it count.
Some still believe that Elisa Lam’s accidental drowning was some kind of conspiracy. The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel very thoroughly debunked any conspiracy theories. She wanted to see the world, and instead, lost her life in Los Angeles. However, her words on Tumblr live on.
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay