The feeling has been scratching around the edges of my awareness for some time, and has only grown the more I use Twitter (and , to a lesser extent,) Facebook.
I am seeing news — BREAKING News! even — that is so nonlocal to me that I can muster only a “meh” or a Seinfeld-esque “that’s too bad.”
And that is too bad.
Although examples are legion, the Tweet above, which I received in my “News, etc.” Twitter list today, moved me to write this post.
I’m not a bad person; but my immediate thoughts (probably in this order, as I reconstruct my reaction) were:
- “Why is this clearly non-local (to me) story in my Tweet stream?”
- “That’s really too bad about the loss of life.”
I’d really like it if I could flip the immediate reaction. But something about the immediacy of Twitter might have colored my response. If it’s not “news I can use” or news that is of broad interest that shows up in that particular Twitter list, then, it’s noise. To me, at least. (Then again, maybe I should seek out a different BBC Tweet stream to add to my News list.)
Twitter users are exposed to a lot of this type of Tweet: murder, mayhem, violence, abductions, and other forms of negative behavior. The fact that it occurs nowhere near the user’s location does not lessen the psychic impact. Even if you gloss over these Tweets and do not have a reaction similar to the one I described above, you are affected by them. Maybe on a deeper level than you know. It may be below your consciousness, but your brain does register it.
In a lot of ways this is similar to the often-cited studies about children s exposure to violence. (Here’s just one. [PDF]) We Twitter users (depending, of course, on the Twitter feeds we follow) are exposed to a lot of negative input, even if we don’t really pay attention to it.
Just something I’m thinking about.
I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts and opinions on this. Comments are open.