— Buenos Aires, Argentina
Three days after the horrifying 9.0 Japanese earthquake and subsequent tsunami, there is still a very visible outpouring of concern online. It’s a mixture of shock at the devastation, sorrow over the deaths, well wishes for the survivors and tension over the elongation of the tragedy in the form of the nuclear reactor problems. I, like many, have clicked through the slideshows, watched the terrifying videos, and read reports on the nuclear power plant situations.
I’ve also seen a number of tweets talking about how any tweets not about the Japan situation right now are “really, really shallow & unimportant.” Well, the citizens of Libya or Cote d’Ivoire might disagree. Or the family of 33 Afghan recruits killed by a suicide bomber. Or the protestors in Wisconsin. Or any number of the billions of people on this planet that have more localized problems than the Japanese tragedy.
The fact that cable news and now the internet have brought us a 24x7 news cycle, and that these young news distribution mechanisms can inundate us with up close and personal views of the horror doesn’t mean we have to spend all of our time tweeting or even thinking about it. The benefit of having so many people on Twitter is allowing those who are knowledgeable of a situation inform us. It doesn’t require that we ourselves be constantly monitoring and adding to the echo chamber.
200 years ago, news of the Japanese earthquake would have first reached the United States in the form of the tsunami hitting the west coast – only nobody would have known it was coming, or why. But this disaster would not have had any effect on the majority of the world’s population. They would have gone about their daily lives oblivious to the death and destruction.
Certainly 200 years ago they wouldn’t have had the concerns of a partial nuclear meltdown, but I don’t believe tweeting minute-by-minute updates on the situation is helping to cool the reactors. I also find it ironic that people who are so focused on tweeting about the ongoing Japanese crisis appear to have some overlap with those who complain about the television news media’s treatment of these types of tragedies. The fact that the networks have video and audio only makes them seem more shrill.
So let’s maybe ease up on ourselves, and not indulge in guilt over a situation that most of us geographically have no way of improving. Yes, donate to aid organizations. Yes, prepare locally for whatever natural disasters are likely to occur. Let’s take what we can learn from the Japanese — and the consensus is that without their safety precautions and infrastructure things could have been far worse — and apply those lessons to our own more immediate circumstances. But don’t be pressured into feeling guilt over a natural disaster like this.
You have my permission to tweet about what you ate for lunch again.