As much as I tried to resist it I have to admit that my experiences on Twitter have been incredibly rewarding. As an aspiring "writer" there is no greater exercise for the mind than to be forced to make your point in 140 characters or less. And let's be honest, those opinions, at least for me, are never about the weather. They are about the big things - or at least I think they are big things. The election. The economy. A murdered teen in Sanford, FL. A massacre in an elementary school. A brutal rape in Steubenville.
The downside of communicating in such short, impassioned spurts is we can become snappy, jumpy, punchy. I recently had a disagreement with a coworker via email and as I typed my response I realized (before hitting send, thankfully) that my response closely resembled one of my biting responses to a right wing troll accusing the President of being a perpetually vacationing Communist. Yikes.
Take a breath, take a step back and think before you type, genius. Easier said than done when you get caught in the wave of (mis) information. Add in the shameful need to be retweeted - to gain followers. Since nothing feels better sometimes than kudos for your 140 character weigh-in on the crisis du jour.
I don't tweet about what I am eating or what I am wearing. I like being in the middle of the fire storm. It is just social media of course and the best way I can describe Twitter is an enormous circle jerk. There is a circle jerk going on among those on the left and there is another one going on among those on the right. Lots of words - lots. With some isolated examples there really is little to no action. But along the way we do learn something despite the 140 character limit.
The crisis in Steubenville is a prime example. I just had an exchange with someone (from Breitbart.com, God help me) who seems to be trying to counter a lot of misinformation. The exchange made a light go on. The volume on this case has been turned up - way up. The involvement of the Anonymous movement has pushed this case into the spotlight - that's a good thing and perhaps a bad thing. The video. That video. It's almost impossible to watch. If Sandy Hook was our gun crisis wake up call - the Steubenville video could very well be the light we needed to shine on our culture of violence against women.
Is the video horrific? Without a doubt. Is it evidence of guilt? That really can't be determined. Certainly not by non-lawyer me or social media. So here is the risk. If the details of this case are blown out of proportion the real case, the real truth, will be dismissed and forgotten. "Wait, you mean she wasn't in the next room when that video was made?" "The guys that made the video may have had no contact with her?" And the crime that was committed, and the victim, will be pushed aside. Somehow if the most outrageous details prove to be misleading then it will be like the whole thing never happened. That is the risk. It wasn't as bad as we thought so it must have been just dandy.
Everyone knows that the danger in the old "rush to judgment" is that someone will be wrongly accused, or worse, convicted. But the overlooked danger of a rush to judgment and blowing things out of proportion is that the real horror of what happened could be lost.
Something horrible happened in Steubenville. How bad does it need to be to keep our attention?