Now that I have hundreds of social media friends I try to keep up with every day, I’ve noticed that my view of the world is changing. A while ago three people in my network had someone close to them die unexpectedly in one week. Just today, two people I follow know someone who died. It freaks me out. Sometimes it seems as if people are dropping like flies. And then I remind myself that I just “know” a lot more people than I used to. The statistical death rate hasn’t increased, but my perception of it has.
I’m not sure if my new world view is more accurate than my old world view, but it feels more real. When flu season hit, I knew it. When there was a scary explosion in New York, I knew it. And I knew these things in a way that seemed much more personal than reading about them on Google News or CNN.com.
I remember having a similar feeling during the beginning of the Iraq war when I was reading the “Where is Raed” blog. It was a personal window into a situation that in the past I would have only heard about in the news. But now there are hundreds of “Raeds” pushing their perspective to me in 140 character bursts.
I wonder what the effects of this new, more “real” reality will be. And I wonder whether they will be lasting. Will people react more to catastrophes when they read about them from their online friends? Will I adopt a more live-for-the-moment attitude when I’m reminded so frequently that death lurks everywhere?
[Update October 4, 2010: Reissued in honor of my dear high school friend Cris Wittress who died suddenly a few weeks ago. We had lost track of each other and had just reconnected a bit. Before Facebook, I probably wouldn't have even heard that she died. I'm glad that because of Facebook I have the opportunity to remember her with other old friends.]
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