mercredi, juin 05, 2013

Twitter rubbernecking: turning someone else's tragedy into your 140-character update

 Today I was working on a paper for my last course in the graduate program in counseling.

Remember the good old days (for some of us), when  online news, Facebook and other virtual opiates didn't pose a perpetual threat to productivity?

Those days are gone as though they had never existed.

Given that my self-control is feeble at the best of times when it comes to distractions, I soon found myself surfing Twitter, linking to articles, and thinking of clever ripostes to some of my followers tweets(most of which I was too sane or scared to post because really, they weren't all THAT smart).

A little after eleven, my Twitter feed lit up with bulletins: a building had fallen in Philadelphia.

There were injuries (as it turns out, there were also deaths).

Then the commentary began.

One update followed another. Some seemed rapt, even compelled, to bring us news of tragedy -- as some had done, one tweet following on another, during the Oklahoma earthquake the week prior.

Watching my followers, and those whom I follow (as I type, I am struck by the "Game of Thrones" quality of these descriptors), I started to feel queasy.

For minute, I imagined a town square, and villagers gathering to watch a public burning or a hanging.

Why were people tweeting about every tragic detail?

What was this voyeuristic impulse to watch, to communicate, to rubberneck in the virtual ruins of someone else's life?

One tweet -- that made sense to me.

Now everyone gets to be a reporter.

Buut on a more practical level, I wondered: didn't they have jobs?

Write a story? Teach third graders? Take their son to the doctor for his check up?  Change this sorry world for the better?

After a while, I turned away, feeling unsettled by the vigor with which some were chronicling the collapse and rescue efforts.

If the people were under the rubble were their brothers or daughters, would they want this much public attention to their personal grief and terror?

Perhaps I am overly pious. Perhaps some of these tweeters saw it as a public service to let the world know about this Philadelphia story.

Possibly this urge to share is a perfectly human impulse.

I'm still not entirely sure why.

After all, most of those who didn't have to know because they were related to the victims would learn soon enough.

It is never too early for joy -- and never too late for mourning.

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