One of our engaged readers sent me this story, about how real-time texting and tweeting have become standard fare during mass shootings and other crisis situations. The story is full of positive words for the phenomenon….
The texts hit a nerve with people because they’re so gut-wrenching and real, Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “They are highly emotional, and enable people to feel empathy and a connection to what the students were feeling at the time,” she says. Social media in particular is good for sharing these texts, Rutledge adds. “Removing the sense of mediation in connection is what social media does best,” she says. “It transports people into events and allows them to share the feelings more intensely.”
The messages are also stimulating to people and create a horror-story-type feeling — except they’re not made up, clinical psychologist John Mayer, author of Family Fit: Find Your Balance in Life, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. That can also make the experience more real. “They bring the reality of the dangers in the world into one’s life and right into your personal space,” Mayer says. “Therefore, it becomes even more frightening.”
The texts also allow people to experience the events vicariously, albeit from a safe distance, and can prompt feelings of gratitude and appreciation for the safety they do have, Rutledge says.
But these kinds of texts really resonate because they’re authentic and straight from the source. “They are real-time reporting of feelings and events,” Rutledge points out.
Well, it’s certainly nice that vivid reporting comes out of massacres! What would we do without social media and cell phones!
My reaction is completely different: Why are these people texting and tweeting in the middle of a crisis? Why aren’t they thinking? Organizing? Trying to solve the problem? Once a 911 has been sent, there is no further utility to communicating with friends and loved ones. That’s a distraction from the task at hand: survival. Don’t text, “Dear Mom, I’m about to be shot.” Throw the damn phone at the shooter’s head while someone rushes him from behind. Take action, don’t give us your feelings.
Our young, and increasingly the rest of us, are so addicted to constant electronic communications that we can’t even pull ourselves away from keyboards and little screens when lives are on the line. Lots of movies have exploited the new suspense cliché when a cell phone rings or buzzes while someone is hiding from a killer/terrorist/monster. This is worse. There’s an emergency, lives are at stake, YOUR life is at stake, and you are thinking about what touching messages to send to someone who can’t help you at all? Hey, why not take a selfie of you and the shooter!
Every single person involved in such a crisis should be trying to assess the situation and think of some way to improve the odds. Every one. Of course the chances are slim, but they are still better than wasting time texting. “Dear beloved: we appear to be out of ammunition, and the Alabamans will soon overwhelm us, and taking the Union flanks and winning the battle, and probably the war itself. It is hard to describe my feelings as a commander…”
Fortunately for the nation and history, General Joshua Chamberlain didn’t start texting when he and the 20th Maine faced disaster. He spent his precious time coming up with a desperate, crazy plan. And it worked!
We are raising a generation of incompetents and addicts.
Pointer: Andrew Myette