Some tragedies are of a variety that go viral. A school shooting, a crime motivated by race. A lot of things in a state with bizarrely open public records that creates nearly self-writing headlines. None of these are good things.
And You & I agree; the terrible thing is terrible. What’s more, I know we agree even without talking with you. If someone came up to me and said, – You were thrilled about the thing that just happened – I wouldn’t believe them. I would never believe an accusation like that without evidence.
I’m saying this because; In the wake of a trending tragedy, I’m used to seeing the social web light up with a flood of people clarifying they disapprove. As if in the absence of clarification that they believe the heinous act was heinous others will believe they wanted it.
I think that we feel powerless, because in many ways, at least in the immediate moments after a Dante Alighieri style comedy, we are unable to do anything… So we post. We share that we don’t agree with the indefensible thing, we get likes, and comments and we feel a sense of power return.
Sometimes public outrage holds powerful people accountable. But that is not what is happening here, is it?
The posts online, they aren’t a rallying cry against someone who abused and will continue abusing their position; are they? Is anyone responsible for this even alive?
Is the collective outrage fueling a machine that makes lone lunatics famous? One where cable news shows the body count as a video game graphic, counting up.
Will the vile person responsible be put on the cover of a magazine, like some kind of rockstar? Will reporters talk like it was a game of duck hunt… “it’s almost a world record for the most deadly of its kind…”
Is our outrage putting a villain on a pedestal for other unstable people? Will the ill and evil come to the understanding that their feelings of powerlessness can become a voice that will be noticed? That by causing enough harm, they can set public discourse for a news cycle?
I can’t tell anyone what they should be doing. I don’t believe I have the answers. But I think it’s worth asking, why are we doing this?
The rush of dopamine from social likes, giving us a small sense of power when we feel weak after a tragedy… Is that the same rush, as the ones felt by those perpetrating these tragedies?
We are not committing violent acts. But are we, in some way, part of the problem?