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A Brief Manifesto: Social Media & Tragedy

I’m finding myself more and more frequently faced with events and experiences too profound or horrific or sad or lovely for Facebook. A “status update” seems a trite effort when a lump in your throat or a vice on your chest is the most real expression of the moment.

I’ve chosen to stay silent online in such cases.

My social media silence in moments of personal, community or national grief isn’t a statement of my lack of caring, but rather my belief that spitting out a one-liner in response not only fails to acknowledge the sacredness of such moments, but actually offends the event itself—putting life and death in the same category as lunch and bowel movements.

I understand when individuals are compelled to tweet about the most timely tragedy, because often we just don’t know what to do, and since our online outlets have become such an extension of our psyche, we simply “post” a gut feeling. It’s honestly all we have sometimes. Not only that, but our addiction to updates has become so strong, we can’t imagine a day passing without some sort of comment, and when faced with tragedy it seems ridiculous to comment on anything else (and it is).

May I contend that silence is better. It is more honoring.

Unfortunately in silence one must be prepared for the feelings of helplessness (or elation) that must be self-contained. You must simply feel it, and nothing else.

We have forgotten that hurting, after all is something. One doesn’t need keystrokes to make it real.

Comments

Bethany
Reply

I love the way you address this! I whole heartily agree and as far as I can remember tend to practice this. I’d much rather get a hug than a like. Both in times of joy and times of sadness. And even the mundane days. Not the same at all :-(

Caryn
Reply

Very well said. I completely agree.

Thomas Allen
Reply

Well said. It’s become far too easy to simply put words out there. On top of that, happens so quickly that some fail to comprehend how a few words can trigger an avalanche of anger and hurt feelings. This is what happened two years ago when my wife’s cousin posted these 3 words to Facebook: STAGE IV CANCER. Everyone knew that her dad was ill. Another cousin saw this and called his mom (the dad’s sister) to confirm. This was all news to her so she called her other brothers and sisters. No one in the immediate family had been told. Needless to say, the fallout from this was ugly.

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