After Newtown, the Unsung Heroes of Social Media Step Up
In the wake of the unspeakable tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, there have been torrents of stories pouring out of the small community in Connecticut. But farther away from the tragic events that media outlets report as “almost having set new records,” at least one unsung hero has gone unmentioned thus far.
The Independent Reflector caught up with this man, who refuses the moniker “hero,” but didn’t hesitate to help the community of Newtown the only way he knew how.
Bradley Olson of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, age 21, immediately updated his Facebook status after news broke of the Sandy Hook massacre.
“Heartbroken. My deepest sympathy goes out to all of the families in Newtown.”
When reached for comment about his deeply moving gesture, Olson, typical of those who act courageously in times of turmoil, responded with few words, “It was just the right thing to do.”
Olson’s public (at least to his 463 “friends”) display of grief will likely be remembered by no one, as everyone else on his newsfeed frantically updated their own statuses to reflect the deep sadness they all felt for families in Newtown before watching last week’s The Voice which they had dvr’ed previously.
When asked later whether he had plans to contribute to the victims’ relief fund, Olson responded, “Wait, what’s that? Hold on, I gotta tweet something.”
Social Media and Definitely Real Grief
In some circles, it is already believed that the Sandy Hook relief fund has been rendered redundant by the outpouring of “sympathy” and “deep sadness” across multiple social media outlets.
Psychology blogs and sites in search of stories and relevance tout “research” that suggests social media “coping” is a real thing and definitely not a bunch of bored people at work making sure to toss out the “right” inane comment about an event that affects them no longer than that time they posted the Kony 2012 video on some people’s Facebook walls.
Specifics regarding how social media contributes to the grieving process remain murky. The Reflector’s theory is that it allows people to feel they’ve done “something” without having done anything. This is no psychology site, so it’s entirely possible that people are unknowingly contributing to a complex global grief narrative. Perhaps, even weaving a tapestry that will allow psychologists to study the stages and evolution of virtual grief.
Of course it’s also possible that Facebook and Twitter are robbing people of the most fundamental quality to dealing with tragedy—listening. It’s been said before, but the beauty of most social media is that it’s essentially a one-way street. Replies and comments don’t count as conversation when everyone’s saying the same thing. When’s the last time an index card on a bulletin board expressed empathy for you?
It’s easy to express sympathy on Facebook or Twitter. Just type out some 160 character trite, little comment. To show some empathy requires you to actually listen to another human being. It takes effort. It takes doing. And your own community, block, backyard, or household could use a dose. Newtown will come together, and its bleeding wounds will scar over some time in the distant future. Donate, or do some good in your own neighborhood.
But another Facebook status update? Just take a slightly shorter shower and you’ve already done more for society than another status update conveying condolences to your five hundred Facebook friends, who all went to USC with you.