Be warned. This is long-winded, opinionated, and it probably won’t be very popular, but you know what? I don’t care.
Yesterday, about mid-day, I did something really unusual.
I shut off Facebook.
Anyone that really knows me also knows that I am a bit of a Facebook junkie. There are a handful of games that I am addicted to, I enjoy keeping up with my family and friends through the feeds (there’s nothing quite so heartwarming as sitting outside on a cold morning, enjoying your coffee and seeing one of your favorite cousins posting from sunny, warm Mexico), and seeing the latest and greatest work from the network of photographer friends I’ve gotten to know.
For me to have shut it completely down in the middle of a rainy Sunday afternoon is practically unheard of. I turned off my tablet, kept my smart phone in its charger (I get FB notifications on both, if that tells you how much of a FB junkie I really am) and only opened one browser window on my laptop, and that was only to be able to Google research items I needed for a book I am working on.
A single picture on the social networking site is what tipped the scale for me and sent me into a thirty minute crying jag, the likes of which I have not experienced in a very long time. In retrospect, it was simply the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Since Friday’s tragedy in Newtown, the news outlets have offered up a steady stream of “as it happens” information. I get that. It’s the age of instant electronic gratification. No harm, no foul. It’s why I went from 35mm film to DSLR as my camera weapon of choice.
In fact, right now, just moments shy of the seventy-two hour mark, one can still pull up local and national news web sites and find up-to-the-minute details on what’s going on in Newtown, the future plans of the school building, how the parents are dealing with this, how the principal’s husband is struggling…need I go on?
Facebook is no different.
Since early Friday evening, Facebook has been the hot spot for people venting their grief, sorrow, outrage, and shock to those on their friend lists. A few images taken from the news that day were starting top pop up with text requesting that we pray for the families and friends of the victims of the day’s unthinkable violence. In fact, I cabbaged one to use as the graphic for my own blog, posted here on Friday night. The arguments for and against gun control started to heat up that night, as well.
By Saturday evening, the names of the victims had been released and graphics were popping up in mass quantity with the names and ages of the victims. Okay. I get that. Sharing those graphics may be a way of helping people cope with a tragedy of mind-blowing proportions. Now, by this time I had HBO turned on, given that I’d pretty much had my fill of the news at that point. A picture of Morgan Freeman went up with a supposed statement from him regarding Friday’s events. Turns out it was a hoax, and that Mr. Freeman’s reps stated that the wonderfully worded commentary had not come from him.
By the time I hopped online yesterday, the pictures of the victims were going viral on Facebook. Now, I am not a hard-hearted, unsympathetic bitch by any stretch of the imagination. I am probably one of the most tender-hearted softies you’ll ever meet, next to my kid sister. I cry over the thought of how many unwanted animals are put down daily in this country. I cry when a little kid loses his or her parent to a violent crime or when a family is taken out in a traffic accident. With that said, when the pictures of those children began circulating, you have to know that I kept a lump in my throat and tears burning in my eyes every time I saw a new one.
Then there are the “Causes” invitations that not only show up on my FB timeline, but in my email inbox, as well. I don’t have enough fingers to count the number of “Petition to sign the sympathy card for Newtown” requests that I’ve gotten.
It was the image of a father, assumedly, looking over a tiny casket that did me in. Some group had supposedly (and I shouldn’t use that word, you know, because everything on the Interwebz is true) donated some child sized coffins to the parents of the victims. I get that the group should get kudos for their donation, but the image? That was my personal “put a fork in me I’m done” moment.
It was that simple picture that broke my heart, pissed me off all over again, and started a flood of tears I had a very difficult time stopping.
I know that this is going to be a very unpopular opinion, and at this point, I don’t care. That image was completely uncalled for. Let’s assume for a moment that the gentlemen depicted in the image is, in fact, the father of one of the young victims. Do you NOT think that a) taking that picture was an invasion of this man’s privacy during what has to be one of the worst moments of his life; and b) putting it out there anywhere (news, FB, Twitter) further perpetuates this invasion of privacy?
Personally, I would NOT want my grief infringed upon, nor would I want it going viral around the Internet.
As humans, we’re curious. It is in our nature, but are we, as a people, so hungry for every minute detail that we need to feast our eyes on that which is so very personal to others?
Are we so morbid that we simply MUST have access to every grim detail? As I walked out the door to leave for work this morning, my regularly watched morning show was touting: “Up next: an exclusive interview with the first responders and what they witnessed.” Do WHAT? What do you THINK they witnessed, you idiots? We all know that what those people saw, upon walking into that carnage, had to burn into their minds, and I imagine that it’s going to be a while before these heroes are going to be able to get past what they saw at the school that morning.
At what point do we draw the line and say, “Enough is enough?”
Maybe we don’t. Maybe we have to rely on our own common sense and trust ourselves to know when enough is enough and shut the news and the social networking down to protect our own precious sanity.
The writer of the message that became the focus of the Morgan Freeman hoax said it quite well:
TURN OFF THE NEWS…….
“You want to know why. This may sound cynical, but here’s why.
It’s because of the way the media reports it. Flip on the news and watch how we treat the Batman theater shooter and the Oregon mall shooter like celebrities. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are household names, but do you know the name of a single *victim* of Columbine? Disturbed people who would otherwise just off themselves in their basements see the news and want to top it by doing something worse, and going out in a memorable way. Why a grade school? Why children? Because he’ll be remembered as a horrible monster, instead of a sad nobody.
CNN’s article says that if the body count “holds up”, this will rank as the second deadliest shooting behind Virginia Tech, as if statistics somehow make one shooting worse than another. Then they post a video interview of third-graders for all the details of what they saw and heard while the shootings were happening. Fox News has plastered the killer’s face on all their reports for hours. Any articles or news stories yet that focus on the victims and ignore the killer’s identity? None that I’ve seen yet. Because they don’t sell. So congratulations, sensationalist media, you’ve just lit the fire for someone to top this and knock off a day care center or a maternity ward next.
You can help by forgetting you ever read this man’s name, and remembering the name of at least one victim. You can help by donating to mental health research instead of pointing to gun control as the problem. You can help by turning off the news.”
I had to turn off my news. And close my browsers. And ignore Facebook. I understand sympathy (those families have every ounce of mine), but I also understand privacy, and I am quickly grasping the concept of over-saturation.
Am I going to pop on over via “Causes” to virtually sign a sympathy card for Newtown? Nope. What I AM going to do is pop right on over to The Newtown Parent Connection and hit their PayPal button and make a donation to the families directly affected by this tragedy.
PayPal not for you? Then you can go over to the United Way of Western Connecticut and mail in a check or donate by credit card. Check donations may be mailed to:
Sandy Hook School Support Fund
c/o Newtown Savings Bank
39 Main Street, Newtown CT 06470
The credit card information and submit button is located on the link above. THIS will help a little more than your signature on a virtual card. (In case you are wondering, I’ve spoken with a very sweet representative from Newtown Savings Bank to verify the validity of the above link. She appreciated concern from all the way down here in eastern NC.) You can also go directly to the Newtown Savings Bank web site to donate, also, which will take you to the United Way site.
Oh, and hey…there is no image attached to this blog. I don’t think I need one to get my point across. Do you?
Till Next Time…