I’m sure you’ve all heard the story, so there is no need for me to recount the horror here. Death is not for the dying. It’s for those left behind, and I offer a prayer to the universe that the hearts of those left behind will mend with time, although I suspect only infinite time would do, and we don’t have that. So, I hope the love from their community, and everyone watching might brighten their days once in a while, but I truly believe they’d probably rather mourn in private and not have all eyes on them.
From nobody to national superstar
Driving back to Roanoke yesterday, listening to the radio, I was inundated with coverage from various stations, about the atrocity. Was that the intention of the offender, to be a celebrity; to overwhelm the media? Some say yes. Some want more gun control or background checks. Some want more mental health legislation. Some just want their friend, co-worker or family member back. This isn’t a story about the deceased or the gunman; this is a story about us, about people, and about how we use media.
This won’t be the last time this happens. I believe the success of his “campaign” will make it all the more tempting for these disturbed individuals to pull a similar stunt. So how do we prevent it or how do we fight back? How do we not lose hope?
Tragedy often brings communities closer together as I’m sure is the case here in Roanoke. However, we all hold memberships to another community; the online one. We are all constantly hooked in; checking notifications, posting status updates, sharing videos. We made him a celebrity. Are we past the days where someone passes in tragedy and their death is not memorialized, scrutinized, trumpeted and picked apart on social channels?
The connectedness gave him the power, and his misguided use of the platform set him up, but what if we had just ignored it? What if we hadn’t shared it? If it wasn’t our social norm to share this type of behavior, would he have taken their lives?
Power at our fingertips
I don’t have the answer to this question. What I do know is that we have a choice about how we use media. Whether we complain about our day, passive aggressively point virtual fingers, or share a video about one of the most poignant moments of someone’s life, we are creating a web of information and energy that has the power to move beyond the cell phone, tablet or laptop and affect the real lives of people. What should have been a very private circumstance made history, for a few days as the latest, hottest story in our newsfeed, and will be “old news” next week, but only for the vast majority of us. The families, and those closest, must endure this "news" for the rest of their lives.
Intrinsically, we are made for good, but there are always a few rotten eggs. By our nature we collaborate, cooperate, and express compassion. Let’s promote that with these tools; not the garbage that propels a culture of “rubber-necking” and killers made superstars. As Lance Ulanoff said, “Our vaunted technology is not as smart as we give it credit for...It doesn’t discriminate. You can show anything on it.” Only we have the power to change that. Share with intention; practice that Small Act.