WARNING: The red colored links in this post contain graphic material. Not suitable for viewing at work, around children, or for people with triggers.
We live in a world of instant communication. We hear of natural disasters immediately after they’ve happened. Often we see tragedies and violence as they unfold. Whether this be from the news media, or our connections’ reactions to the media they are watching. We are instantly thrown in the midst of the occurrences and the emotions they invoke as they unfold, and often before all of the facts are known.
These sorts of outlets not only allow but encourage people to form and express opinions that are often based on misinformation and/or their baser gut reactions to the media they’ve viewed or read.
I did most of my growing up before the internet was really even a “thing”, let alone something that was as commonplace and available to the public as it is now. Despite this, we still heard of things relatively quickly if we wanted or cared to. If you were a child (or even an adult) who had no interest in watching or reading the news: you were capable of remaining relatively oblivious. You may have heard bits and pieces second hand as those around you spoke about it – but it was distanced, you weren’t experiencing the report and/or images first hand.
Even if you were an avid follower of the news, you had fewer sources coming at you, and often back then things were not reported in nearly the graphic nature they are now. This allowed people the ability and even the time to digest the input they were receiving. People were granted the reprieve of thinking about what they just read or heard on the news before going out into the world with their opinions: whether you read it in the morning newspaper and thought about it on your drive to work, or if you heard it on the evening news and had a night to sleep on it.
Of course, as with everything there are 2 sides to the coin. Lesser avenues of communication allowed people to remain more ignorant. More sheltered in whatever familial or community values and thoughts that were around them. There was less opportunity for people to see that there were more critical issues and problems out in the world. I’d imagine, too, without [as] instant communication Government, World, or Relief Agency response was a bit lagging.
What about before telephones, when people relied on telegraph and mail? I won’t go into all of the implications, save for a few obvious ones. Telegraph lines had huge advantages but were obviously limited. This prioritized what “the powers that be” felt the Public really needed to know or hear. Corruption always existed, but this control allowed for the public to only be shown what was wanted to be seen. At that, often times the reports that the public could access were so delayed that it perpetuated the remoteness of the reality and the invocation of any emotional response.
With everything in life there are both positive and negative impacts to be experienced. Instant communication certainly has its positive side. Responding Agencies are able to deploy their services in a more timely fashion. Government is able to get ahead of certain situations, and society has a vastly larger capacity to stay informed and aware. This reaps several benefits that shouldn’t be ignored, but I can’t help but think about the other side of the coin. I can’t help but see the glaringly negative aspects of instant communication as a response to the several tragedies our nation has experienced in the past month.
This isn’t to say that it’s a negative thing to have the ability to so easily access current events. The negativity comes from the responses that are invoked. Today the general public has the ability to witness violence, tragedy, or disaster and immediately put forth their reactions through multiple social media channels.
As I go into this next thought, I want you to think about the last time you read or saw something from media or an individual that had you typing furiously at your keyboard in a moment’s notice. Maybe you posted it, maybe you caught yourself beforehand – but think about that moment.
The internet has the ability to make someone their true selves, so to speak. The internet protects people from their audience with the safety of not only a screen, keyboard, and miles of distance – but anonymity should they so choose. This has been a true fact from the days of AOL chat rooms and ICQ through today with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Vine, Periscope, YouTube, etc. The difference about today is that social media has allowed for people to cast a much larger net with their messages.
As a society we all want to be heard. We all want to be right. We all want to be validated. Instant communication has created a fast track to these needs. When our country and our world experiences violence our immediate need is to let everyone know how we feel about it. We want everyone around us to experience our heartache, our rage, our suffering. We want the world to know that we feel helpless and that makes us angry. The problem is, we go about it all wrong.
Our access to instant communication enables us to be base and primitive. It allows instant outlet for that rage, heartache, and helplessness. Remember how I asked you to think about the last time you saw something online that made your fingers pound furiously against your keyboard? This is what I’m talking about.
Chances are, you weren’t. We don’t, but we need to. We are a self serve, agenda driven society. We are a tunnel visioned people incapable of accepting each other’s differences. Access to instant communication perpetuates this. We all react to tragedy differently. Our individuality borne from our ethnicity, social status, financial status, and upbringing demands this. This is not a negative thing. The negativity spawns from our lack of wanting to understand why we all have different reactions and view points. Rather than hold a beneficial conversation built of wanting to understand; we degrade, we accuse, we dismiss, and we provoke.
Why? Because we feel safe to do so. Half of the things we say online we wouldn’t the courage to say to our target’s face. We have the protection of our screens, keyboards, and anonymity. Therefore, the consequence of putting forth our base and thoughtless reactions towards events and others has little to no consequence. Our social construct entirely revolves around consequence and physical presence. When we are face to face with real life we are forced to curb ourselves and communicate in ways that are acceptable to those around us. Instant communication takes that want and need away.
You are all well aware of the several tragedies that the U.S.A. has faced this past month. I realize that there are several horrible tragedies around the world that do not receive the proper global awareness they deserve, and I apologize that I won’t be detailing those. However, that fact goes to prove a good point.
Why am I less familiar and feel less invocation of base reactive emotion over the horrible violence and death that is plaguing Syria (for example). Is it because I’ve never experienced the horrors of war and terrorism, so I can’t relate? Is it because Syria is a Muslim nation and our American social media has perpetuated the notion that Muslims are evil, and undeserving of compassion? Truth is, I couldn’t tell you the answer.
What I can tell you, is that I know every detail there is to be known from the media in regards to what happened at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. I know every detail reported about the killing of Philandro Castile and Dylan Noble. I know every detail about the shootings at the Dallas protest. I know all of this despite the fact that I most often actively refuse to watch or read the news.
I have received most of my information from social media posts. In the Pulse Nightclub shooting, news reports of Eddie Justice’s texts to his mother were viral on my social media. Amanda Alvear’s snapchat video was everywhere, Anthony Torrez’s video of the shoot out was shared over and over. Orlando’s own police department sent out tweets at the beginning and end of the massacre, and continued to have a heavy twitter presence through the month about the investigation and community support of those who were lost.
Dylan Noble was shot 4 times and killed by police earlier this week in Fresno, CA. He was unarmed and already lying on the ground next to his pickup truck at the time they began shooting him. They told him to keep his hands up, and when he raised them up they shot him. I know this because a bystander around the corner of the gas station was filming, and posted it to social media.
These things were all invocations of teary eyes and sadness in my heart. Sadness for the loss that these people’s families must be feeling. However, the most gritty, graphic, heart wrenching thing I’ve seen on social media was the video of Philandro Castile earlier this week. His fiance live streamed on Facebook as he lay slumped towards her in the car: dying from his bullet wounds. Philandro Castile, like Dylan Noble, was shot 4 times for notifying police he had a permit to carry and was armed, but was reaching in his right back pocket for his license and registration. I know this because I saw it. I know this because I saw a man die, up close and personal.
Setting aside the sadness and tears of seeing these things. I want to ask, why were these things filmed? Why did Diamond Reynolds video her fiance dying? I know that this tiny little question is FAR from the point of that whole awful injustice – but the question bothers me none the less: I struggle with it. I say this with no judgement: I just wonder if I were in that situation, wouldn’t it be more important to try and save my fiance? And if I couldn’t, wouldn’t it be more important to be in the moment with him, and at the very least of my capabilities with a gun pointed at me, tell him I loved him and that I was right there with him, and that he wasn’t alone?
On the other side of the coin, maybe Diamond knew that Philandro wasn’t going to make it and took this as an opportunity to really and truly show us an issue that is seriously underestimated in this country. Maybe this video will be a catalyst and Philandro’s death will be the turning point this nation really needs.
In chorus with this, 11 Police Officers were shot, and 5 lost their lives on the very same day, while working a peaceful protest in Dallas, TX. I know that there were 4 suspects that were in the buildings above the protest and were shooting down at the cops. I know there were 3 males and 1 female. I know that one of the suspects was killed. Unlike the above tragedies, I also know that a group of diverse people surrounded a baby carriage to protect a child from the shooters. I also know a police offer, who’s partner was killed, pushed a civilian man out of the way and saved his life. But I don’t know these things because I took it upon myself to search out information on this shooting. I know this from social media.
The result of actual footage from these events has a great potential to provoke change and revolution. The problem (as is so often in our society) is that the negative outcomes of these media posts are outweighing the potential progress they could bring about.
The images we are faced with when viewing these injustices provoke anger and outrage – as so they should. The problem therein lies with the misplaced direction of this anger and outrage. We as a nation fail to come together in times of violence and tragedy, and rather let it separate us. As is so clearly demonstrated in Alexis Chateau’s recent blog post, The Power of Assumptions. In this post, Alexis uses the murder of Philandro Castile to illustrate the assumptions that social media users jump to when reading not only news from media outlets, but when reading commentary or opinions from their peers.
Alexis’ outline of her experience when speaking on her thoughts related to the social media she was seeing in response to Philandro Castile, garnered her several angry, insulting, and derogatory replies. The majority of the replies came due in part to readers not getting all of their facts before running with their base emotional response. The facts in this case were her additional 2-3 tweets that finished the beginnings of her thoughts from the first tweet.
Those who responded to her constructively were those who actually took the time to read the entire tweet thread or, those who rather than react with hate and separatism, wanted to try to understand where Alexis was coming from with her statement. These constructive replies were the vast minority.
The experience that Alexis had are far too common. They are the “happens every day” sort of common. We as a society have evolved social media into a platform in which to perpetuate our biases, anger, and separation. We are stuck in a vicious cycle of directing our blame of the state of our “world” at each other rather than where it’s deserved. We allow ourselves to be pacified by the temporary gratification that the vicious cycle of blaming, degrading, and arguing brings when we utilize these forms of instant communication. If we only took the time to breathe and think for a moment, instant communication could be one of our greatest tools. Instead, we’ve allowed it to be our biggest downfall. We’ve allowed it to be the wall that separates us from each other.
Let me ask you this: If we did not have these instant outlets, would the world react more with their hearts and less with their agendas? Let’s entertain a silly scenario for a moment:
Let’s pretend that we did not have social media or the means to communicate with the world instantaneously. Let’s pretend that when wanting to make a statement about recent violence or tragedy, we were forced to submit our thoughts to a moderator. Our thoughts may or may not be posted depending on the content. Having such a need to be heard, would we not make sure our message was true to what we actually wanted to accomplish by spreading our message? If we wanted to express our sorrow and condolences to the families who lost loved ones – we’d make sure that’s what the moderator received. If we wanted to present facts and statistics on the racial injustices in our country, we’d make sure we researched and had the correct information. If we were angry we’d make sure our anger was expressed objectively and was supported by a proper foundation.
Or, maybe we wouldn’t, who knows. This scenario would never happen – nor would I want it to. We have a freedom to express ourselves and any restraint on that would be a huge step backwards. What we need, is to stop letting our opportunities be hampered by our base emotion and false sense of security – and start utilizing the opportunities for what they are. Instant communication is an opportunity, please let’s stop wasting it.
Pause to ask yourself if your immediate reaction will be helpful
Analyze the situation and push yourself to see different view points
Research the facts of the source of your outrage so that you have an accurate foundation for your message
Discuss the situation with a friend if you feel like you still can’t communicate what you really want to
Omit any hateful thoughts, or thoughts of blame you have from your message
Neutralize your statement so that it becomes a collective and inclusive message to all people
Last, but certainly not least. Lets all try to spread the hope, message, and intention that the late, great, Michael Jackson conveyed in this song.