I think it’s time for a news and social media cleanse

Published 4:26 pm Friday, August 28, 2015

I’m taking a news and social media hiatus – as much of one as I can with my job – just for a few days.

Thursday morning (and afternoon), I got into a far-too-lengthy Facebook discussion with a slew of journalist 20-somethings about guns and mental health and political polarization. I don’t have to tell you what sparked such a conversation.

There wasn’t any name-calling, no pointing fingers or playing a blame game, something that’s rare for the Internet; it probably helped that we weren’t talking with faceless strangers and knew that we had some similar ideologies and opinions, namely “too many people have died in shootings.”

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There was a lot of anger toward the situation, not each other, and a general sense of helplessness combined with self-criticisms of “we’re on some sick, conversation-but-no-action, forgetful merry-go-round.”

What do we do? What do we – as journalists, as members of the younger working generation, as former students with debt, as Americans fed up with the political climate – do?

I can’t speak for what my friends will do, but I do know the first thing I did was vow to never get used to headlines about shootings, be it a single homicide or a “mass shooting,” gang violence or officer-involved, a suicide or anything else. I can’t, won’t accept that as the norm, even if it happens often enough to be considered “normal” by some. It doesn’t fit in my definition of “normal,” but it does fit into my definition of “a problem.”

How do we rectify it? Do we advocate for gun policy changes? Do we push for reducing the stigma around mental illness? Do we combat the polarization and demonization of the American political parties?

We can’t seem to find the first step, we can’t agree on a viable first step; maybe that step is different for everyone.

After the discussion was dying down, I deleted a few apps from my phone and decided to not check Twitter or Facebook unless it was work-related. I had about seven news apps that would notify me of breaking and developing news, and then I would use Twitter to check applicable hashtags to read as much about it as I could.

It became too much Wednesday when I woke up to the news that two journalists had been shot and killed on live television, doing a job similar to my own, covering a routine story similar to things I’ve covered.

The “disgruntled former employee” – whose name I will never write nor commit to memory – took the lives of Allison Parker and Adam Ward with a Glock. He ended their futures and shot a hole into the lives of their loved ones.

I’m not scared that I’ll be killed on the job, but I am scared that we – the public and the media – will forget about Allison and Adam just as we’ve forgotten about so many other victims while remembering the names of their killers.

Maybe that’s my first step. Maybe I’ll reenter the world of the informed with a first step and a second step, even a third planned out. In the meantime, I stand with WDBJ.