Boston Marathon Bombing: How Internet Videos and Coverage Shape Our Perception

Last Friday, I jumped on the subway near Madison Square Garden after work and went to a movie by myself in the Financial District.

After the movie, I walked around lower Manhattan, and after awhile, I caught myself looking up at One World Trade Center; the still in construction skyscraper also known as the "Freedom Tower."

"The Falling Man" image by photographer Richard Drew popped into my head. The September 11, 2001 shot shows a man in freefall, headfirst, as he dove from the North Tower during the attacks.

As a journalist, would I have taken out my phone, or my camera? 

As a human, would I have documented the terrorism, even though I knew that the dead or dying or injured would grace the covers of newspapers and blogs and websites for the world to see? For their loved ones to see?

As a millennial from Buffalo, I often felt connected — more so than other youth — to the terrible and gruesome incidents that occurred during my upbringing.

I was six when Buffalo native Timothy McVeigh bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City. Until the September 11 attacks, it was the most destructive act of terrorism in the United States.

As a youth who played little loop football, I spent more than 10 years wearing the number "32" on my jersey in honor of O.J. Simpson, a former Buffalo Bills player who most likely killed his ex-wife in 1994.

In 1998, Buffalo was once again in national news when Dr. Barnett Slepian — a OB/GYN who lived a few suburbs away from me — was killed by anti-abortion activist James Charles Kopp.

Side note: Parents — do not give your child three names. Is it only me, or do three named Americans usually end up being assassins?

Sure, it's easy for all of us to connect terrible instances from our hometowns or communities at large in order to grasp large scale horrors, but even as a kid, I believe I had a subconscious thought — or more so, obsession — that things were not going to get better.

As a generation raised in the rapidly evolving time of technology and social media, in addition to the overwhelming exposure of news and current events, it's not uncommon to scroll down Facebook and see a cute picture of puppies followed by a victim of the Boston Marathan bombing bleeding and with a limb missing.

As a young adult with experience in journalism, marketing and social media, I feel that I have a pretty good grasp on the trends, and the tools and resources needed to gain a large social media following or have an article get a shit load of hits.

On Monday, I was a little taken aback by not only the news coverage surrounding the terrible bombing in Boston, but the way that it was dealt with on social media.

Like a whisper in a middle school locker room, the rumors and scandalized details emerged and changed from post to post; 12 dead, two dead, two possibly dead, runners injured, only those who were watching injured, a kid dead, a kid alive, a suspect found.

Yes, I'm not naive and I understand journalism, but it's starting to make me sick how some websites or news sources must must must must be the first ones to not only report on an issue, but to push that information out to the masses via the ever popular social media channels in order to, in a way, capitalize on disturbing events that yank, with full force, on the heart strings of those reading or viewing.

The world really isn't changing in regard to carnage and murder and terrorism, but as technology evolves, we're no longer going to read about what may of happened; we are going to see a short description, or an actual video, or an image of someone clinging to life on Facebook.

As I sit in this Brooklyn bar and write this, I think about those lost Monday, about those who will be lost in the future, and how the social media and the reporting of terrorism will, without a doubt, continue to evolve.

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Jeffrey Hartinger

Jeffrey is a graduate of Canisius College. He works at a nonprofit organization in Manhattan and writes freelance. You can visit his website at www.thewhygenerationusa.blogspot.com. He has a strong interest in politics, comedy, and music, in addition to using his writing to educate and entertain.

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