This is all becoming disturbingly routine: something happens -- I always seem to be sitting in front of my computer when it does -- and for the rest of the day I'm glued to my screen in full voyeur mode, the TV (when I had one) on CNN, tuning in (now) to some online television station, tuning in to Twitter feeds, hanging on every word.
The first instance of this was Columbine, but since then it's also been 9/11, the space shuttle disaster, the Gabby Giffords shooting, the Clackamas Mall Shooting, Newtown, and now the Boston explosions. And I surely haven't remembered them all.
As Clayton Cubitt noted above, this probably isn't healthy. Yet it's hard to turn away.
Television -- and now the Internet -- changes everything. Once people plowed their fields and ate their dinners and read their books until it got dark, and then they went to bed. That was life for millennia. But now life comes out of a firehose, and I don't think we're evolved to deal with it.
And lately it's all so much worse. The videos are looped endlessly. The broadcasters on TV talk and talk and talk, speculating on what happened when a minute before they said they didn't want to speculate, making claims while at the same time saying this hasn't been confirmed, bouncing from one correspondent to another, from the deserted scene to the hospital to the press conference to their national reporter in DC. They can't decide if they are journalists or color commentators.
I know they are trying to inform people, some of whom are just tuning in to find out what's going on. Maybe it's my fault for not tuning out.
Now in just the last few years it's gotten even worse -- there are cell phone vidoes to watch from every angle, the inevitable Twitterers who were right on the scene and whose Tweets immediately bubble up the chain, complete with iPhone video. Cameras everywhere. A thousand witnesseses, all want to tell their story.
And the wolves pounce immediately. I went out to buy some food for dinner, and Lars Larson was on the radio -- Portland's wannabe Rush Limbaugh -- already blaming Obama for saying this or not saying that, or saying it wrong or not saying it right or something. Already trying to spin this into points for their side.
Everyone is waiting for word on what happened in Boston, but really, does it matter? It's 3000 miles from me, and doesn't involve me at all. I think. I have a few friends in Boston, I've been to Boylston Street and Copley Square and remember it well, and television makes it all see believable.
But this affected a few thousand people out of a third of a billion. Do we all have to freak out?
I just don't know anymore. Last December my sister was at the Clackmas Mall when the shooting occurred, and had to run out of her store in a rush. I fly just like anyone else, and wonder what 9/11 might have felt like if I was on one of those planes. It seems easily possible, even if the statistics say it's far away. I am annoyed when I have to take my shoes off in the security lines, but I also wonder if my flight will be the next one.
It is television and the Web and our hyperconnectiveness that is making me wonder? Or is there really a legitimate threat? I just don't know anymore, and that bothers me.