A link on Facebook alerted me to the bombing at the Boston Marathon on Monday, exactly 57 minutes after the attack. It linked me to a CNN article online that had a live update on the number of people injured and killed at the event, as well as information released from the police.
I was in awe of the instantaneous knowledge and thankful for the Facebook status updates I received from friends living in Boston alerting others of their safety. This was the first wave of social media coverage of a catastrophe.
Then came the onslaught of Facebook statuses and tweets encouraging prayers for the families and hope for America to stay strong.
I don’t want to diminish the intention of these updates, but I’m guessing that many of them came after only reading the same 600 word CNN update. This isn’t a crime; it was one of the only official sources available at the time.
The third wave of social media is the attack on the supposed perpetrators. We’re just starting this stage with the Boston marathon bombing. We’re just starting to argue about who’s to blame and if we should go to war over it.
However, the Newtown shooting social media attack is still in full swing. We blame guns and Republicans who fight gun control. We demand higher support and security for mental illness patients and public schools. We make cute, yet biased info-graphics and enflame the ugly truth. This is sad, but not the worst wave.
The worst wave of social media after a catastrophe is the fourth: we forget. We forget about KONY and Syria and Katrina and the earthquake in Japan. We begin to change our Facebook statuses back to how much we’ve procrastinated our homework and how happy we are the sun is out today. Of course we can’t live in the hyper-sensitive, angry world we do weeks after a catastrophe. It’s not healthy.
But then why do we do it at all? What do we hope to accomplish? We want to be a part of the community. We want to be the heroes. I propose that we close our computer screens, hug our friends and family, and pray that something like this never happens around us, or if it does, we have something in ourselves to be like the men and women who ran into the blast, ran to the blood donation clinics, and saved lives.