When I was a teen in the 80’s and 90’s, I remember being frightened by news images of riots and shattered glass. Spent shell casings and a drying pool of blood splayed across the TV screen would give me nightmares and a sick feeling in my gut for days. Flash forward to 2016–this week, actually. I came across a story of a woman who live-streamed her dying boyfriend’s last few moments of life on Facebook. I watched it, felt sickened by it, yet it gave me pause to wonder about our world and the kind of information flow we share within it.
We are naturally wired to look for danger. Although firemen saving kittens from trees is heartwarming to some, it’s the “look-at-this-bloody-thing-that happened-to-this-person-and-it-can-happen-to-you-too” story that really grabs our attention. No matter how First World Problems your life is, we know that danger lurks and we are on constant lookout for it through every media we have available: TV news, radio, social media…including Facebook. When Facebook first began, my ‘friends’ were truly my friends and I spent most of my time playing Farmville. Now, some of the gruesome things people post on their accounts are making national news.
Instead of seeing a spent shell casing and a dried pool of blood, my kids could actually watch a several videos of people experiencing their last moments of life…or what I think is sometimes worse: they can see the mangled remains of what was once a human being.
I feel sick even writing this.
What is our responsibility here? Some things should not be posted on public sites. While aggressors will use Freedom of Speech to do and say what they want, the rest of us have to suffer being exposed to things we don’t want to be exposed to. Worse, families of victims have to fight for the right to keep pics of their deceased loved ones off the internet because some first responders or witnesses have no qualms about instantly posting death pics or vids at an accident site.
And worse…certain vids posted incite the ire of many people. In already hostile social and political environments, should we allow the media to cover these stories in a fractured and prejudiced way? In my opinion, the media is irresponsible about what and how they post. There is a difference between revealing a story and dumping loads of tragic, biased information on the public and then expecting us to sort it out as “informed” citizens. And the fact that this type of coverage is now available in my Facebook newsfeed–and my kids’s feeds!!!– makes me feel a little insane.
I want to shut it all out. We don’t watch news in our house and don’t peruse news outlets on the web. I limit how much computer time my teen gets, but I can’t take suggested stories out of her newsfeed. I can’t keep my college kid from watching gut-wrenching, hope-busting vids on youtube. I feel I’m doing my best when I severely limit what I will watch. I try to inject laughter, hope, and humility into our day and conversations. I work hard, relax hard, and hug my babies A LOT. I do everything I can to combat what we are bombarded with daily on social media. And no, I believe we absolutely should NOT post death pics and videos on the net. Until we are more capable of caring for each other as a societal whole, it is irresponsible for us to post, watch, and become desensitized to these images of the absolute worst and tragic sides of life.
CJ Heath is just a mama who fights to stay afloat a lot of the negativity in the world. She knows she can’t cocoon herself or her children forever from horrible people and events. But she’s sure gonna try.