This weekend while discussing the latest “did you see that post by…” conversation about Facebook, a friend of mine made this statement: “To me, Facebook is like a really bad reality show, and yet we’re all characters in it.” It was one of those moments of enlightenment where it really started to make sense. It is a reality show. We are all the players. I guess Shakespeare knew social media was coming when he wrote, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players”. (Entire monologue can be read here).
This fact of life was no truer when on Friday, December 14th, our nation was struck with yet another horrific tragedy. When the twin towers were hit on September 11, 2011, I remember gathering around TVs and radios with my co-workers. On Friday, I watched Twitter, Facebook, CNN’s live newsfeed, and we all searched things on online news networks. It’s no great revelation that time’s, they have in fact, changed. Pictures from the scene were immediately shared, users became news reporters, Average Joe’s became detectives and psychologists, we all became human behavior analysts, and we also all shared in our grief together. Our reality was grave, difficult, hard to watch and yet hard to look away from.
As digital media manager on Monday morning, I almost felt petty looking over content for future social posts given the last post most all accounts had made over the weekend were those of thoughts and condolences for a horrific massacre. What is the appropriate amount of time between what could be called a serious post and a post that is probably not serious in the grand scheme of things? On my personal accounts, am I crass for discussing how heartbroken Friday made me followed by a post about a ski trip we are planning? For the first time in my life, I was speechless. And yet, when I am completely without words, I scroll the Facebook newsfeed, and I find the post of a friend. A post that pretty much sums up how we all face social media, and how everything is important to someone, on some level, at some time. Here are his words:
Sometimes it feels like Facebook reshapes the world into a bizarre, dystopian place where nobody cares to differentiate between good and evil. Triumph and tragedy, momentous and mundane…it all streams out in an uninterruptable, decontextualized spew. The most important value – perhaps the only value – in this artificial social media world is best summarized in four words: “Hey! Look over here!”
That new album came out…Somebody took an artsy photograph…Somebody’s child is in a play…Somebody really wants you to read their new blog post…Somebody is having a birthday…A room full of first graders was murdered with a rifle…Somebody’s basketball team won…Somebody has an insight…Somebody disagrees with the President…Here’s a funny picture of a cat…Somebody made something…Somebody got married…Somebody is moving…Somebody went shopping today…Somebody’s thankful it’s Friday…Somebody just had a family portrait made…Somebody committed suicide…Somebody went for a run…Somebody wants you to repost if you agree…Somebody is talking about God…Somebody has the flu…This person is at the beach…This person’s mother just died…Somebody repeated that thing everybody knows by now isn’t true…Someone saw something funny on TV…Somebody really loves their dog…Somebody just had a baby…Somebody is being vague and passive aggressive…Somebody made a joke…Somebody graduated…Somebody is in line to see that new movie…Somebody somewhere lost everything in a disaster…Somebody wrote a prayer…Somebody said something controversial…A celebrity broke up with another celebrity…Somebody has cancer…Some news story needs to be read…Somebody’s preschooler said the cutest thing…Some people died in a war…Somebody really cares about their side of an issue…Somebody had the best tacos this evening…
~Justin Joplin, Pastor (and an altogether cool guy I know from High School)
After I read his status, whether he meant it this way or not, I took some comfort that yes, it’s okay to remind my friends going on the ski trip that I need their RSVP by Sunday. While I am still heartbroken for all those affected by the tragedy in Connecticut, and for our entire nation, the reality show that is social media continues to roll. I also took a moment to remind myself to note the differences between good and evil, triumph and tragedy, momentous and mundane, and to determine which of those things should get more of my voice. I came to the conclusion that it’s different levels at different times.
What we should all learn about social media in the face of a national tragedy: social media has a power like no other communicative tool of any other time in history. Our communication capabilities are only going to get better. Be prepared!

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