As the tragedy in Sandy Hook affected social media, social media affected Sandy Hook.
When the tragedy of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in Newtown, Conn., hit us all, I automatically felt a sense of remorse. As devastating as that moment in our history was, one would expect that this would be a time for us to come together. But when I looked on my Facebook news feed, besides the condolences and prayers, I noticed bickering at its finest.
College Democrats and Republicans exchanged political insults about gun control and policy while the rest of the world was grieving. Liberal students at my campus began making personal attacks on the National Rifle Association and conservatives began defending the Second Amendment on Twitter.
As the rest of the country, along with many clubs on campus, held memorials, social network sites were buzzing with insensitive comments and backhanded remarks. As we’re well on our way into the New Year, I have one last resolution that, together, we should consider: Let’s be more thoughtful of what we post in times of tragedies and national hardships.
Tea Phillips, a freshman at Drexel University, says that our generation has been “desensitized” to matters such as the one that occurred in Newtown, and such thoughtless tweets and statuses could possibly serve as “defense mechanisms to the numerous recent media reports of shootings.”
“We can only be in awe so many times when tragedies such as Sandy Hook happen,” Philips said. “What may come across as a consequence of our desensitization may actually just be our way of getting over it.”
But at what cost? And how much can we push away our actual sincere courtesy?
“We need to remember that there are real people who are affected by this tragedy,” said recent University of Pennsylvania graduate Mohamed Shahin. “We shouldn’t turn their loss into a way of leveraging our own political views. It turns each life that was lost into a pawn and is immoral.”
He is right. These are real people with real problems, and for us to conjure our own personal biases and shift the focus of the discussion is disappointing. These individuals represent our neighbors, friends, family, co-workers and peers. Their stories and experiences shouldn’t be taken for granted or trivialized for our own vendettas and cyber rants.
Jessica DiVanno is a real person with a real story. A recent graduate from the University of Pennsylvania and a prospective nursing school applicant, DiVanno is a Newtown resident who lived a mile away from Sandy Hook Elementary School. Both DiVanno and her sister graduated from the school at which her mother also taught. DiVanno, a caretaker for 6-year-old James Mattioli, sent him off to school on the fateful morning of Dec. 14 . He never returned.
Though upset about how the media has “politicized” this catastrophe, DiVanno said she hasn’t given up on the positive side of what social media sites can do.
“It has been a great way to find out about other events going on in town such as vigils and fundraisers,” said DiVanno who even threw her own vigil this past Christmas Eve.
Although deeply saddened by the political back and forth, she said one way that she advises people in her town to counter the negativity is by “sharing positive articles and messages and photos about all of the good things being done in Newtown. Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have been a great way to see the support from around the nation and the world. An online card was presented at a vigil I attended, which had over 2 million signatures in support of our town.”
Social media is both a friend and a foe. It can unite us while dividing us at the same time. It can inform us, but also make us inconsiderate. Although we may never cure all of our cyber woes, in 2013, let’s vow to be more respectful about how we post information regarding the tragedies of others. Let’s not make our statuses and tweets ones that reflect the mindset of a pseudo-expert or mindless political pundit. Recognize that not only are these narratives are real, but the people who they surround. College students and our friends, please: Let’s social network responsibly.
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