“So very sad. My heart breaks for the family, friends, and colleagues touched by today’s tragedy.” 22 October 2014
This status came up on my Facebook feed reminding me of what happened two years ago in Ottawa. The moment I heard that a ceremonial guard had been shot, my heart raced, hoping it wasn’t a young friend of mine who was on duty that morning.
What a difference eight minutes makes. It wasn’t her.
Of course, social media was buzzing with live updates through Twitter and chatter on Facebook, some of us looking for family confirmation that she was safe.
I learned that all the messages of love she received were heart-warming at first, but eventually, it was overwhelming and she stepped away from social media. Many people experienced the shock that day and all of them had to process the information and move forward. Having the whole scene revisited by the social media junkies kept the adrenalin pumping.
This keeping images and conversations going on for so long is not natural. Humans need time to come down from a terrifying incident. It doesn’t mean that we sweep it under the carpet, just that we learn to find that fine line between satisfying the need to know and fueling the sensationalism. We need to know when to step back, as my friend so wisely did.
When the memory message popped up, I thought about sharing it. I wanted to respect the day and those who were affected. I wasn’t sure what the right thing to do was, but my gut was telling me not to share.
I watched my feed throughout the day. The family members changed their profile pictures without adding words. I liked each one as my way of letting them know I was thinking of them. Other people had also changed their profiles, with no words attached. No replies. No discussion. Just acknowledgement.
I felt proud of my Facebook friends for not sensationalizing the day and for their quiet respect.
Sometimes, the silence says it all.