My mind flipped a switch and suddenly I was back in high school. I think I was sitting in a classroom - math class - the TV got turned on because two boys in Colorado brought guns to school and shot & killed a bunch of students. We got sent home early that day... that day of horror at Columbine High School.
Everything came to a halt.
We watched. We mourned.
An entire nation sat paralyzed, glued to TV screens and radio stations, waiting for more information.
An entire nation sat near-motionless, and grieved.
We gathered in homes and church basements and we prayed together and I remember I had my first real crisis of faith in front of my YoungLife leader. I asked her, "If God knows past, present and future, and he knows what we'll choose to do, why would he allow those two boys to be created in the first place? If he knew they would kill all those innocent kids, why would he even bother?" My leader cried. I cried. We all cried and we didn't know the answer but we knew things were different now, that things would change after this.
It was a dark day, and I remember sitting in that dark for a while. I remember it was hard, but I remember it was good to sit, to wrestle, to stop and pray.
We didn't have Facebook or Twitter back then.
I watched Twitter and Facebook this morning as more information poured in. It had been national news for hours at this point and now people were reacting. Anger, sadness, frustration, shock... you name it, people were feeling it. But as quick as someone stated their shock and horror at the shooting, no sooner were they sharing their latest fashion find on Pinterest.
I felt physically sick. Then I felt an overwhelming sadness.
Sadness at the devastating loss of life and senseless act of violence? Yes, without a doubt.
Sadness at the shocking display of apathy and disconnect? That, too.
I was shocked and saddened at my own apathetic, disconnected heart.
It appears that masacres and tragedies don't mix well with social media. Horrific events like this create a vacuum - it sucks the joy and optimism out of our lungs and all of a sudden we're faced with our own mortality.
We hate doing that - facing the fact that life is really fucking short and there are insane people in the world who would dress up as The Joker, walk into a movie auditorium full of people, throw tear gas at them, then shoot round after round out of their AK-style military gun.
We don't like that reality of life and social media serves as a great drug - a fix to numb ourselves from the fact that this isn't just a tragedy we're watching from afar - those are real people with real families and real kids that were brutally murdered.
Social media has us more connected than any other time in history - connected to information input and output, connected to each other and connected to ideas. But social media has caused a massive disconnect, and I'm starting to wonder if we've realized it. Social media moves fast. Like, speed-of-sound fast. We're getting more and more information at faster and faster speeds and our ability to stop and process that information has subsequently faltered.
When I say we've lost our ability to process, I mean we've lost our ability to receive the information and respond in an emotionally healthy way - or respond emotionally at all, for that matter. That innate human connection of empathy and grief is lost in the blur. We don't stop and mourn anymore because we simply can't stop... especially those of us who operate & work in social media on a daily basis. We have to stay on top of the information coming in and we have to fill the vacuum with new information of our own.
Do we need to Tweet and Facebook about the tragedy all day and that's it? No. But, maybe we shouldn't say anything at all.
Maybe we should just be quiet. Maybe we should try to connect with the grief and the hurt. Maybe we should try to wrestle some of the hard questions. Maybe we should just stop and be with our families. Maybe we should just spend the day in quiet prayer.
I don't know. I don't have any answers and I'm not here to tell anyone how to deal with tragedy in the "right way." There is no right way to grieve, to process or to heal. We each do it in our own way.
But, we can't be afraid to step away really connect. We can't be afraid to stop, slow down and look around for a minute.
I hate sitting in the dark. It's uncomfortable and it hurts. I don't like thinking about the lives lost, the hurting hearts, the devastation of the shooter's mother.
But it's only in darkness can we understand the light. And I really need to understand the light. WE need to understand the light... because only light can help is find a way forward - to make things better, to to create beauty out of ashes and find joy everlasting.
"Can I see another's woe, and not be in sorrow, too? Can I see another's grief, and not seek for kind relief?" - William Blake
[Friends, I'm taking my own advice and have stepped away from Twitter and Facebook for the day to give my undivided attention to my family, my faith and my humanness. I'll return when I'm ready.]