“Sad for the horrific things you have experienced in your life. I was much older before this terror hit.”
This was in a Facebook message from someone very close to me early this morning, one day after one of the world’s most recognized sporting event turned into a scene from a gory action movie. Another moment of innocence lost to an act of violence.
While I’ll probably still always consider 9/11 the defining historic moment of my life (knock on wood), it’s become apparent to me how many incidents we’ve seen recently that follow a similar pattern. Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Newtown and now the Boston Marathon. So when I received this message this morning, it dawned on me that I’ve probably seen double the murders, double the bombings and double the acts of terror in my 25 years than she’s since in her 55+.
But then again, who’s the judge of that? In talking with my 61-year-old boss this morning, he reminded me that violence has always been alive and well in this country, we just weren’t as exposed to it. With the eruption of the Internet and social media, we have no choice but to be subjected to news coverage (whether or not it is verified) and the breeding of fear. Yesterday I read more about the two explosions on Twitter in 20 minutes before the story had even broke online on CNN, Fox or NBC.
For my senior seminar paper in college, I wrote about citizen journalism and its role in natural disaster coverage. I discussed the validity of witnesses who report on the situations, what they say, what photos they take and whether or not we should pay attention. What I find funny is today I’m asking myself the same questions when it comes to valid, legitimate news organizations. Up until about 2 p.m. today, the father of Martin Richard, the 8-year-old- who was killed in yesterday’s bombings, had been a runner in the marathon. Then they confirmed that his father had in fact not run in the race. At one point yesterday, “dozens” had been killed in the explosion. Today, we found out there were three.
So between everything we’re being fed via social media and the news, who do we believe? And even more so, are we ever NOT going to be overexposed? While I’m as much of a news junkie as the next liberal arts, coffee guzzling graduate, I can’t help but think we are becoming distracted by the plethora of information at our fingertips. Was I happy I could get news updates from 50 difference sources via Twitter yesterday? Sure. But is that really what we should be doing?
Maybe instead of creating hashtags to trend on Twitter, or creating a “Pray for Boston” meme not an hour after the attack, or trying to get the news out so fast that you publish false information, maybe we all need to slow down. Sure this surfeit of content is informative, but I wonder sometimes if we would all be better off putting on the brakes and actually let ourselves feel the emotion of the situation as it happens, not just talk about it.