This is not my take on who is right or wrong. Nor is it my take on what the right thing to do is in this situation. Simply an observance on the power of social media in relation to this tragic event.
One shimmer of light. If I had to look for one through the entire event of April 27, Freddie Gray’s funeral day, it would be the power of social media on how we consume news.
I woke up yesterday, 4/28 – the day after Freddie Gray’s funeral, ready to tackle my work. No meetings on the schedule, simply getting stuff done. (If my boss is reading, you saw that I stayed late, so what I’m about to talk about didn’t affect performance.)
When I opened my computer at work, I did the usual, scrolled through the news. Opened up Feedly, read a few of the latest posts about social media best practices, and then of course followed up on what had occurred in Baltimore. So I did what I normally do when these events happen…
A quick Twitter search. #Baltimore. I started scrolling. I found videos of the destruction and the rioting. Probably the one that fired me up the most was this one… [WARNING: This footage is raw and has NSFW language.]
Destroying buildings. People fighting each other. Arguments with cops. At some points it looks like rioters are antagonizing the police to a point where the cop would react to give them a reason to fight. Best way to describe my feelings after viewing videos like this – I was heated.
I thought to myself, “How can people react this way?” “I understand being angry. I’ll never understand what it’s like to grow up in their situation. But how can you be so angry to harm your neighborhoods?” I even texted my wife…
I couldn’t understand this, and my understanding was that no one protested, they rioted. The city burned.
What if I didn’t have the whole story?
Lunch break came, and I watched this Featured Periscope story by Paul Lewis. (Thank goodness I downloaded this app, I love it.)
It’s a long one. Sorry for the vertical video, but that is how Periscope works. Every word she said made me feel better. It’s just one person, but it showed me that not everyone there is trying to change things through violence.
You know what else it gave me? PERSPECTIVE.
To paraphrase the wonderful woman in the video – I was in the 4th grade when we had riots due to Martin Luther King Jr’s death. A few years later, the early 70s, our city came together. We had different neighborhoods, but we were at peace. But then… crack came in.
These kids are the grandchildren of the first crack users. Many of them, they do not have a family structure at home.
Boom. A dose of reality, and another reason, why I like to take a moment before reacting. People who spout on social media often want to be the first one with their particular opinion. This leads to speaking out of turn, speaking before you know the story. More on that later…
As the afternoon went on, I saw this from Ray Lewis.
Another vertical video, sorry. But another message, a fatherly message. An individual who, sure, had some history with the law, but Ray Lewis is heralded by many young adults in Baltimore. They grew up loving him. This was another refreshing video to watch.
And here is one last video that sealed the deal for me…
Three rival gangs. The early “news” was that they had an agreement together to fight the cops. The REAL NEWS, news that took the time to hear both sides, found out differently. Their truce was to show solidarity in protest… peaceful protest.
Whew. What a day.
I say that, not in trying to describe April 27 in Baltimore, but in description of my own day. I first consumed the news of the riots, the destruction, the mobs, the fights, and I was irate. Mad at the people of Baltimore for they way they would act, and for that early judgement, I apologize.
Now allow me to please ask all of you reading this right now a simple question. You are all consumers of media. Print, radio, billboards, TV commercials, news stations, Instagram posts, Vines, tweets, Facebook posts, and more. Opinions are everywhere, and facts are thrown in between. How do you choose who to follow in all of these media outlets?
We get a first-hand look at what is going on, but we are also a victim of our choice on who to follow. If you don’t seek out both sides of the coin, you’ll have a one-sided opinion. If you only follow, fan, subscribe people who think like you, then you won’t be pushed to get a 360 degree view of any situation.
This is one tragic event out of many that happened before and many that will happen in the future, but my one request – seek out both sides of any story.
News channels are giving us what they think we want. Maybe we need to be more vocal about hearing the whole story a half day later, than one part of the story 140 characters after it happens.