I’m not a breaking news reporter. It’s not my thing; I’m not great at it, although I can write fast. So because I haven’t been down in the grit of covering the increasing inundation of tragedies and shootings, I haven’t become as inured to it as some of my friends. But I have worked enough to see it happen more and more, the routine of tragedy become routine.
One of the jobs I do do is I manage a lot of online publishing and social media for different places. There’s this thing you have to do in the wake of a disaster or mass casualty event where you stop and take a “temperature check.” What’s the right tone right now? How bad is this? Should we pause scheduled coverage or change plans, because it’d be insensitive or inappropriate? It’s messed up, but it’s a thing you have to do. And I can tell you the amount of time before things go back to normal has gotten smaller and smaller. There’s even times now where you stop, do a check, and say, ‘Well, this tragedy doesn’t seem to be resonating as much with people.’ Horrific, but true.
I joked earlier this week that my off-season activity was going to be arguing with everyone who’s wrong online. People said all the things they always say in response to this. “Don’t feed the trolls.” “Just ignore it.” “Don’t read the comments.” “It’s not worth it.”
This advice is quaint and nonsensical, as if ignoring terrible ideas makes them disappear or absolves you of the consequences of them. I don’t know if you’ve looked around lately, but all the polite conversation, all the not engaging, all the ‘now isn’t the time’ DOESN’T SEEM TO BE GOING GREAT.
I fundamentally believe we have to talk to each other, even when it’s shitty or uncomfortable. I spend half of my life talking to lots of different people in lots of different places. And then I spend the other half of my time mostly inside my head, training alone. So I’ve had a good amount of time to think about things. And I think part of the problem right now is no one said earlier ‘hey, that’s not a good idea,’ or ‘why don’t we talk about it.’ We ignored and didn’t engage and now everyone’s just screaming at each other or plugging their ears.
I was on Facebook some weeks ago and an acquaintance from college had posted that she was in the car with a friend the other day and the friend had started yelling out the window at a cyclist to get off the road, but thought it was OK since it was a busy road and the cyclist shouldn’t be on it. And, until I said something, everyone on this Facebook thread agreed: cyclists shouldn’t be on the road anyway, it’s for their own safety, why don’t they stick to bike paths. But once I was like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, that’s a really bad idea,’ all of a sudden all these new people agreed with me and other people actually stopped and thought about it. If I hadn’t said anything, then everyone who saw that thread would have gone away with the belief that screaming out windows at cyclists has unanimous support.
I fundamentally believe this is actually important. That we actually have to stand up for what we think and our experiences and beliefs. That our perception of the world is getting distorted by too many people ignoring the trolls. We start to think there are more trolls than people. But it’s also exhausting. Which is why it was going to be my off-season activity.
And I’m exhausted right now. And I’m still in season. One more big race. Next weekend.
So I’m out until after that. I’m taking a mini-internet break (except minus work, which will be interesting and a bit challenging). But I’m going to be pseudo off the social medias through IM Louisville + hanging out in Kentucky, which I haven’t done since Christmas a few years ago + visiting Chicago.
See you all in a few weeks.