I’m struggling. Our world was rocked on Marathon Monday. For some of us more than others, certainly, but I’ve always felt that Boston is a small, closely knit town. Having lived in the Back Bay for years, having run in many city events, and being an American—heck, being a person who has feelings—I’m not surprised that there’s no shaking the dark cloud looming over us despite the beautiful weather we’ve had this week.
But what bothers me after four days is that I am still constantly holding back tears. I haven’t been able to process what has happened. Recognizing that I know people who were there but who are fine, and that I only “know people who know people” who were injured, shouldn’t it be getting easier for me to compartmentalize the event and continue with “normal” life? Why isn’t it getting easier?
For this, I blame social media, which I believe has become the modern-day breeding ground for urban legend. Think about it. How many times have you passed along a story that “happened to a friend of a friend”? For me, the big one growing up was the cactus plant that exploded with poisonous spiders when my friend’s friend got it home. Back in those days, legends traveled by word of mouth, face-to-face. Water cooler talk. Later, they would travel by e-mail. Now, it’s through social media.
People will share, re-tweet, and re-post updates from people they haven’t seen or spoken to for 30 years—or from people whom they’ve never even met! This is why information—and misinformation—spreads so fast. For some reason, we believe what we read, especially if it’s posted by someone we know (or sort of know). And it’s so easy to pass this information along—with just the simple click of a mouse—and without repercussion if the information passed along is incorrect. I mean, our hearts are in the right places, but how do we know that Mr. Rogers wasn’t really a marine sharpshooter when we re-post that? In these times of social media, “first is best, verification is next (or not at all).”
As much as I love social media for its immediacy, I hate it for its inaccuracy and the ongoing misinformation that goes viral. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t believe anything I read or hear on the news—unless I hear it hours later or even the next day. And this is why I believe I can’t “settle” into life after a terrorist attack has hit so close to home. I can’t get a handle on what really happened, so how can I process it? Was it even a terrorist attack? Yes, an act of terror, but was it terrorism? Someone please tell us some facts!
What do you think? Do you believe what you read? Or what you hear on the news? Is social media bad or good for consumers of news?