Scrolling through Facebook recently, I saw the video that one of my friends posted. “You GOTTA watch this! It’s AMAZING!” he said, so I clicked on the link.
It certainly was amazing, but not in the way I expected.
It was one of those dash-cam videos, showing the highway and countryside speeding past as a family chatted and giggled in the car. A baby cooed and gibbered happily somewhere in the background.
I don’t know what I expected. I thought it was going to be something funny, something silly. Maybe something truly amazing, like a UFO streaking by. Instead, an oncoming car suddenly lost control, flipped over the median and plunged into the windshield, crushing the dash-cam. The last sound was the screams of terror and agony of the family.
You know, I love going to the local racetrack. My favorite events are the Factory Stock heats, because those cars are moving junk heaps driven by people who have little interest in keeping the cars pretty. They bounce off each other and slam into walls and occasionally roll over upside-down. The crashes are the best part.
Sort of like the fights at a hockey game. Hockey is no fun at all when the players behave. That’s not to say I want to see the Kalamazoo Wings hire the Hanson brothers to “put on the foil” and re-enact the movie Slapshot. But if somebody doesn’t throw down his gloves and punch somebody else, hockey is nothing more than men on skates chasing a piece of rubber with big sticks.
It’s all about the excitement. The chance of danger. The thrill of knowing that something unpredictable could happen at any time and somebody just might get hurt.
But there’s also the knowledge that those racecar drivers are wearing HANS devices, fireproof suits, special helmets. The cars have roll bars, five-point harnesses, and other safety devices that I won’t even pretend to understand. Hockey players wear masks and padding and protective gear. If any of these guys get hurt, it probably won’t be anything serious.
I guess I am as blood-thirsty as the next person. When I go to a hockey game at Wings Stadium or a “Night of Destruction” event at the Kalamazoo Speedway, I expect to see some violence. Maybe a little blood. Just a little.
When I click on an “AMAZING” video on Facebook, I don’t.
What is wrong with us, as a society, that any one of us would take such joy in sharing a video of a family being snuffed out in a car accident? This is not entertainment. This is tragedy. This is horrific.
I’ve seen this same video shared by two people on my friends list. One was a guy from my high school; I don’t know him well, but he always seemed like a pretty nice guy. The other was my cousin’s husband, who is one of the most good-natured, friendly people I’ve ever met. Neither one of these men is the type to take pleasure in the suffering of others, and yet both shared this horrific crash video with the same kind of enthusiastic preamble: “You GOTTA see this! It’s AMAZING!” Or some variation of those words.
It wouldn’t be so bad if even one of them had said something along the lines of, “Oh, man, this is really terrible!”
It’s human nature to be drawn to violent and horrifying images. Obviously, I know that. Just like everyone else in America, I was glued to the TV after Oklahoma City and September 11; I watched the footage of the destruction in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and the Joplin tornadoes. In short, I am not condemning anyone for watching the video, or even for sharing it.
The part that turns my stomach is the enthusiasm and celebration that seems to come along with sharing it.
I would love to use this as a soapbox to make a statement on our world, and about the way people today seem to have become numb to the suffering of others. I could complain about Facebook or start “unfriending” anyone who shares a violent video.
But instead, I’m going to ask that you all just take a moment to think before you share something on Facebook or any other form of Social Media. Think about that video of a family’s final moments and terrifying deaths; if you absolutely must share it with others, do you really have to do so with such obvious glee?
If so, maybe you should ask yourself why you think it’s so AMAZING. Ask yourself why you enjoy it so much.
I wonder if you’ll like the answer.