Last Wednesday I drove from New Jersey to Nashville to take my daughter to her freshman orientation at the college she'll be attending. Of course, now that I have the social life of a fifteen year-old girl, one of the first things I did after getting settled in at our hotel was check my Facebook account.
I was immediately met with the horrible news that a tornado had touched down in my hometown - a town that was now 871.6 miles away. Post after post replayed the horror that had visited my sleepy hamlet. My blood pressure spiked and the sense of impending doom made the Dan Dan Noodles I had just eaten turn sour. I'm usually a pretty pragmatic person and I don't often take to flights of neuroticism, but it was really a horrible feeling to be so far away from home right then.
Well, after contacting a few people, I found out that what the "tornado" really was was a pretty heavy thunderstorm and one of those funnel cloud things that drop down, but don't rotate or cause any damage. Someone with a video camera caught some footage and posted it for all to see, but once you saw the footage it really just looked like a thunderstorm. Score one for social media hysteria.
Social media is quickly becoming an outlet for people who desperately want to be at the forefront of some horrible tragedy or breaking news. They want to be the first person to post a picture, or video, or news story that goes viral and gets tons of unwarranted, or warranted, attention. We've become a nation of Yentes meddling in everyone's business so we can get someone to pay attention to us. This will ultimately be the demise of the instantaneous social media forum, but in the meantime, watch what tragedies you buy into.