I refer you to this article, which was written BEFORE Thursday night.
It's sort of been the perfect storm for me lately. I have a family illness going on, I had a medical malpractice trial starting next week, I had kids and work, I did something bad to my foot which was making it hard to walk. And then the world started falling apart.
The family illness is still a big and ongoing uncertainty.
The medical malpractice case just sort of magically went away. It's been something that has been over my head for over 7 years (why, yes, that does date back to residency if you are counting), and has been really far-reaching and traumatic, so I feel a bit delusional saying that it's just..over. One day when I'm not feeling quite so beat up by the judicial system (and not feeling so defensive about this, even though it does seem happen to everybody), I'd love to explore what that experience was like and what I've learned.
And the world? I sort of hit a level of emotional overload on Friday morning- I know I'm not alone in this - where I was just so beyond what I could handle that I was having trouble coming back down to earth. I lived in Boston for a long time; and I have a lot of friends and family still there. It all felt both close and terrifying and completely delirious. My sister said: "Who let Michael Bay direct Boston last night?" and I laughed, because it was true; it was so unreal and awful that it had to be Hollywood, except it wasn't. But I think we all wished it was.
I spend a fair amount of time online, and a fair amount of that time on social media. There's a lot of denigration about this kind of expenditure; people have been writing a lot about the 24-hour news cycle, and how it creates 24-hour anxiety. And that definitely can be true.
The other side of it is actually something much nicer, and I think may be more important. Through this crisis (and even times of non-crisis), social media can be a source of reassurance. Of company. Of friends. Perhaps there is also a 24-hour reassurance cycle.
I found it a tremendous privilege that people from Boston - and elsewhere - could check in, from all over, at all hours. And that I could send them love, and updates, and even accomplish small, non-local tasks for them felt simply wonderful.
There's the chicken-egg argument (that is: without the 24 hour news cycle, you wouldn't need the reassurance) but I've been through crises like these before in the time before we all carried internet around on our hips, and actually, I was no less anxious and very much less reassured.
So this is what I think: many of us are on social media because, actually, we love each other. We are, in fact, as a species, sort of in love with each other, with an unmet, infinite, almost voracious need for each other's company and thoughts and feelings and love.
I know you're sitting at home saying blah blah, C, I can't believe how naive and disingenuous you are. For these websites, you are a product with your eyeballs being sold for entertainment. Yeah, I know. I also know that I don't use the internet the way everyone else does, or have friends that everyone else has.* But my eyeballs are still there (as, the probability is, are yours) because even in its less palatable ways, it meets what turns out to be a pretty ancient basic and primitive need: to connect. The internet just meets it in a technologically new way. And having that need, that ache for other people, is actually one of the most beautiful parts of being human, and is what, in the end, saves us all.
*Mine are exceptionally awesome.