Stop. Think. Tweet.

This isn’t really about the mass shooting that happened in Connecticut on Friday; it is about how we react to it. I am going to tell a personal story that I am relating to the way we react to things. I am not in any way equating it to the severity of the tragedy at the school.

Although a day of silence a few days later might seem like a well intentioned reaction, I think that maybe people should think about what they are tweeting in the thick of things rather than stay silent at a later date. Or maybe even be silent during the event out of respect or until more facts are known or there is time to verify. I saw so much misinformation spread on Friday that I was deeply disturbed and saddened  I understand that the initial problem is caused by the media’s rush to be first, but why encourage them. I saw Bloggers I admire and respect spread rumors and lies. Their intentions were good, but the outcome was not. And while a tweet or news report might seem harmless when corrected a short time later, it could still hurt.

A few years ago, I received a phone call that strongly implicated that my husband was severely hurt or killed on the job. I received the call from someone who meant well, but acted rashly with only a bit of information. My husband is a first responder. One day, I had just arrived home from my job at the hospital when I got a call from my boss. I vividly remember the conversation and this was years ago:

Boss: Is you husband working today?
Me: yes
Boss: Call him, make sure you hear his voice and then call me back. {click}

I called my husband and there was no answer. Then I heard the helicopters.

I called again and he picked up and said, “I’m ok. It wasn’t me. Can’t talk, busy” and hung up.

I called my boss back, said he was fine, went in the house, threw up and I don’t remember another thing from that day. I don’t remember my husband coming home from work or even if he did before I went to bed that night.

I still get upset, teary and sweaty thinking about that phone call and the outcome was fine. The whole incident was pointless. If she had waited 5 minutes, maybe even less, she would have known the name of the victim. I understand her concern. This was less than a year since my mom died and within 5 for my dad, but that is almost more reason for her not to have called.

When I am tempted to live tweet/critique/rebuke a tragedy (or other people’s reactions to the tragedy), I remember this story and do my very best to not further spread misinformation, lies or half-truths. I know there is comfort in the collective experience, but I think we can have that without the reporting/repeating of “facts.”

Some of the things I saw on twitter, confirmed and relayed as factual, verified news: that the shooter was a parent, that the shooter’s father was dead in the home, the shooter’s mother was dead in the school. There were faked twitter/facebook pages and accusations hurled at someone with a similar name. It was one of the most disgusting displays of shoddy journalism I have ever seen and social media amplified it.

I think it is fair to say that the 24-hour news cycle and social media has compromised journalism and much of it is a race for Facebook shares and/or Twitter retweets. This is where I am going to take my stand and be silent. I am going to stop feeding the news cycle and spreading misinformation. This might be a time where being last is winning the race. It is more important to be correct than be first.


I’m adding some related links as I find them:

Snopes: Newtown Rumors

Reddit: I’m from Newtown and I have something to say to the world

Related Posts with Thumbnails

4 Responses to “Stop. Think. Tweet.”

  1. Audrey says:

    ❤ this. I’ve largely kept my mouth shut on the matter because it irritates and sickens me how everyone jumps on the bandwagon to tweet or facebook these things as though they happened to them. And frankly, it sickens me that no one seems to care about the kids in China that got sliced up outside their school this week.


    Amy Reply:

    People DO care, it’s just tragedies at home seem so much more real than those far away.


  2. Suzanne says:

    “It is more important to be correct than be first.” THIS. SO MUCH THIS. I was with my parents as this unfolded and my father was getting his news from one website as I was getting it from Twitter and our information was WILDLY different. Journalism has turned its focus from being as full of facts as possible to being the first with any information and it makes me ill. I know no one on Twitter wants to be the person who didn’t know and happily tweeted their Disney vacation all day, but retweeting incorrect info helps no one.


    Amy Reply:

    It’s pretty sad that FIRST! comments on blogs that we all make fun of is now a valid journalism thing.


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