Minutes after Monday’s bombing in Boston, phones lit up across America. Twitter blazed with distress and shock. News outlets scrambled for relevant information. Texts from friends and family spread the word. The gravity of the moment was hard to escape.
We live in a plugged-in society, for better or for worse. When politicians fumble over their words, a YouTube video is posted within the hour. If an athlete has an unflattering interaction with a heckler, they are raked over the Sports Center coals to the point of exhaustion, and when something tragic happens, we will all bear witness, in the flesh or on the web.
I struggle to deal with the responsibility that the internet requires. On the one hand, it provides a powerful tool that I can no longer live without. The vast majority of my research, reading, and television-viewing take place on a computer. I now possess the great ability to share pieces of my life with friends and family around the country and the globe. I can settle disputes in a bar with a quick Google search, and prepare writing on the go. Having access to the internet gives me no excuse to be ignorant to the world around me, a challenge I embrace as fully as possible.
Following the story in Boston and subsequent reactions these past few days, I was as proud as usual of the citizens of America. These times of sadness tend to rally people of all colors and creeds, as we remember what really matters. We not only celebrate the lives of those important to us, but in a rare display of empathy, we celebrate the lives of people we will never meet. Faced with our own mortality, we remember how precious our lives are – a fact we should never forget.
But we do forget, because our culture of now demands it. We chase Twitter trends and try to discover “the next big thing” before other people show up and ruin it (Remember MySpace?). We gesture rudely to drivers who will not let us into their lane, cursing people we do not know over a minor inconvenience. Life goes on whether we learn from these terrible events or not.
We should not dwell on the gruesome nature of events like those in Boston, but we should not let them fade from consciousness either. This country is only as good as we choose for it to be. We should choose to hold a door for a stranger, take the time to help those who need it, and remember that each day we still breathe oxygen is a gift.
I do not mean to preach; I am not asking for the students of West Chester to save the rainforest or end slave trading. However, we need to realize that the world is at our fingertips, unlike any other time in human history. With social networks giving us a voice, we think shouting at each other on Facebook means we are contributing to a solution.
I am as guilty as anyone of being a prisoner of the moment, but even in the moment we should remember the lessons that make causes important to begin with. Though we cheer for the brave souls who rescued the injured post-bombing, for the firefighters who rushed to eminent death on 9/11, and for the soldiers that fight and die for our rights overseas, somehow, we still let these people go underappreciated and underpaid for 300 plus days of the year, until extraordinary events illuminate the American heroes in our daily lives.
Today we should embrace technology for more than following fleeting trends. We should use this responsibility to stay well informed and connected so that we can thank those men and women, our teachers, our doctors, our firefighters, who impact our lives every day. It should not take tragedy for us to realize the majesty of the American mosaic.
Kyle is an English Writing major with a focus on Journalism. He can be reached at KN669234@wcupa.edu.