This post is in response to Tragedy and Facebook Statuses, a recent “WesleyingSpeak” by tuna.
My mother texted me Friday morning with news of the Sandy Hook shooting. At first I was just kind of numb. I combed through all my usual news sources, hoping to find more information. At this point, only the shooter had been confirmed dead. I went to lunch and continued to study for my film final.
However, about an hour before I took the test, “confirmed” reports started emerging: Around 26-28 people were murdered, most of them children, all of them shot down by a single, initially misidentified man. Again, I was overtaken by numbness. I tried to put the tragedy out of my head as I worked through my final, and afterwards I just sort of collapsed in my room. My mom called to tell me she loved me, and I watched Obama’s speech. I cried.
I thought about all of those kids who wouldn’t go home that day. I tried to think about what I was doing at that age. Little six-year-old me would’ve been swinging in the backyard, watching Scooby-Doo, and begging her mom to read me just one more picture book. I couldn’t help but think about the lives of these children, past, present, and future.
And then I wrote a Facebook status:
What I find most heartbreaking is that tonight, 20 young children will not go home and watch their favorite cartoons. 20 individuals will not have their parents read them bedtime stories. 20 small souls will not open presents on Christmas Day or Hanukkah.
We live in an awful, cruel world. But we live in a world we can change. All of us. So let’s change it.
To me at least, Facebook is a very personal thing. I don’t post 87,000 different statuses every day, and I posted that status about Newtown because I care. I wanted to show visible support for something that affected me as a human being. Facebook’s status text box asks the question, “What’s on your mind?” What was on my mind the minute I posted that status was the shooting and the tragedy of it all. Would people have been upset with me for not posting a status about the shooting? I highly doubt it.
Facebook statuses teach me to never forget. When each new status about the Sandy Hook shooting showed up on my newsfeed, I would turn to the news again and think more about the shooting. I would reflect. I found myself feeling more thankful and grateful for the people around me.
In addition, the Wesleyan community had several vigils on Friday evening in memory of those killed in the shooting. Are their prayers invalid because no Newtown resident was there to hear them? Is the grief of people who attended those vigils greater than those who did not attend? It’s a slippery slope to compare grief between people and how different individuals mourn.
Personally, I found tuna’s post inappropriate in terms of the time in which it was published. I would’ve appreciated it more had he posted it at a later time. My father has given me lots of talks and has sent me loads of articles about how Facebook is changing our society and how it’s creating all these weird behavioral shifts. I’m used to hearing about “Facebook culture.” But the last thing I wanted on the day of a national tragedy, a human tragedy, was a scolding.
Yes, tuna made a point (and reiterated it in the comments section) that his article was meant to be more of a thought-provoking piece and not a slap on the wrist for those who wrote messages on Facebook. But I still found the latter to be the case. There are far larger issues involved in this shooting than who posted a Facebook status on the Internet and whether or not they actually know someone personally affected by the tragedy.
For example, I come from a different part of the country (the South) where parents take their kids “huntin'” by the time they’re five or six and where it’s considered a life milestone , like getting married or having children, when a kid makes his or her first kill in the woods. I was extremely disturbed when a former classmate of mine wrote, “This whole Connecticut shooting makes me want to buy another gun” as his Facebook status because wait, isn’t the issue that there are too many guns out there already? It’s easy to forget that there are people in this country who think there should be more guns and not fewer guns. Some citizens think we should be arming elementary school students with loaded weapons to protect them instead of taking away guns from the people doing the shooting in the first place.
Within the issue of gun ownership comes an infinite number of pressing questions. Why are disturbed people able to by guns? Why is it so easy to own a weapon? How do we pass this legislation? How do we keep this momentum going?
This brings me to my final point. There is an online petition on the White House’s website calling for the government to have more conversations about gun ownership. It already has over 20,000 signatures and is growing by the hour. How did “Adam S.,” the creator of the petition, let people know that such a petition existed and that they should sign it? Did he go around door-to-door collecting electronic signatures? Did he send out mass mailings across the nation within minutes of the tragedy?
I’m guessing he posted a link to it as his Facebook status.