Tragedy in the Time of the Internet

I was going to post today about year-end best books lists. That, like so much else, will have to wait for next week.

Unlike many of my peers, I don’t want to take this time or space to talk about gun control, mental illness, our culture of violence glorification, or prayer in schools. Not because those things aren’t important to me, as they very much are. But we can’t control our reactions to tragedy, and apparently mine is to sit here, mostly frozen, reading everything I can (fact, fiction, opinion, protest), and trying to process today’s events.

The internet helps us all feel more connected to one another: acquaintances or old friends now feel completely inserted into each other’s daily lives as if we were bosom buddies or roommates. Bloggers who are otherwise complete strangers to us eloquently speak about some aspect of their lives in a way that resonates with us, and we slip into a quasi-relationship where we become part-friends, part-fans. I was recently at a local playground and recognized a well-known LA blogger, or rather, I recognized one of her adorable, oft-photographed children, and then realized that I thus recognized the mother calling for the baby. I debated whether to say hi, but realized that, for me, the relationship was more public figure/fan than friend/friend, or even one random mom with a cute kid to another, and in those situations, I tend to leave the person alone.

Tangent aside, my point is that the internet makes us feel closer. When tragedies of this magnitude happen, we all run towards family and friends. But I know I can’t have been alone in wanting desperately to know what my friends were feeling and saying, and that includes my “friends” as well, meaning my Facebook and Twitter feeds. And one thing I noticed as I refreshed is that every so often, there would be someone talking about something else besides today’s shooting.

At first, I felt jarred, and then a bit upset — how could anyone be thinking about anything else? But then I saw those folks get some frankly insane feedback to that effect, and I began to feel for them. Whether they had content set to auto-post, whether they had not yet heard the news (seemingly impossible in our 24/7 news culture, but actually kinda comforting), or whether they were choosing to speak about something else in an attempt towards normality, it’s their prerogative. If there should be a moratorium on anything today, please let it be judging others on their reactions or lack thereof. The internet may make us feel like we’re all one big family (the type that involves prying great-aunts), but you there? You do not know most of your Facebook friends’ inner lives, and you do not get to lambast others on Twitter for every post made that doesn’t match what you feel right now.

There’s such a need to band together right now, to find the answers, and to please fix these problems, these horrors that plague our lives from time to time, sometimes more often than others. I have no answers or suggestions as to how to do that, but what I do know is that tragedies happen. And they are immeasurably terrible. But if something happened to me tomorrow, I would so want to think that I spent my last day, and every single precious one before that, as active in my pursuit of happiness as I could be. Whether that’s by seeing a silly movie by myself, spending time with my ingenious toddler, gasping over what the HELL Kristen Stewart just wore on the red carpet, eating a million and one mint M&Ms, or making out with my hot husband.

In the face of unexplainable, devastating death, I choose to mourn, but also to live. And I’m okay with that.


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