After the attacks, Parisians are turning to their phones for safety and solace

Lights in the darkness.
Lights in the darkness.
Image: EPA/Guillaume Horcajuelo
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Daphnie Ploegstra, a 20-year-old student, was having dinner with friends in a Parisian apartment last Friday when a deadly terrorist attack shook several area restaurants and a concert hall.

But Ploegstra didn’t know of the attacks until she received a text message—from a friend back home in Holland.

“Everyone grabbed their phones and everyone stayed on their phones all night,” said Ploegstra, who is in Paris for a year on a study-abroad program. “My mom called, my brother called, my boyfriend called.”

Needless to say, mobile phones and the internet now play a crucial role in crisis and post-crisis communication. And since the terror attacks that killed 129 people on the night of Nov. 13, Parisians continue to use their phones more than ever to reassure loved ones and themselves.

“I’m on my phone a lot more,” said Amandine, 17, a student in the Canal Saint-Martin neighborhood, where some of the attacks occurred. “I receive a lot more text message from my mom checking in to make sure everything is okay.”

On the night of the attacks, France’s Bouygues Telecom registered about 25 million more text messages across its network from 8pm on Friday to 8am on Saturday compared to the same period a week earlier, the company said. The mobile operator provider also connected 3.4 million more phone calls from 8am to 8pm that Saturday compared to the same period a week earlier. SFR, another service provider, experienced a “significant” increase in calls and text messages around the same time on Friday, a spokeswoman said. She didn’t provide exact figures. Orange, another service provider, said the text messages on its network during the the Saturday after the attacks were twice as high as the average Saturday.

None of the phone companies were able to provide call and message data for the days following the attack. Anecdotally, Parisians say that they are calling, texting, and generally contacting friends and family more frequently in an effort to feel connected and safe.

“I worry every day about my wife and my little boy,” said Gauthier, 33, who works in the Canal Saint-Martin neighborhood. Gauthier, who declined to give his last name, said he’s been messaging his wife more frequently since the attacks.

These connections are also strengthening for young Parisians whose families live in other parts of France. Daphne Le Marchand, 26, works at a café in the Canal Saint-Martin area, about a ten minute walk from the site of one of the gunfire attacks. She was visiting family in Brittany at the time of the attack, but was back to the city and to work a few days later.

“People who live in the French regions are concerned about what’s happening,” she said. “My family is worried so they have been contacting me more. The text messaging brings us closer.”