Writer’s Block: Social media has given us all short-term memory

Sports Reporter
Sam is the sports reporter for ABC Newspapers, covering high school, junior college and community sports in the area. He joined the staff in October 2016.

The news never stops. And sadly in America, often times it’s one bad incident followed by a tragedy followed by another bad incident.

We see these negative headlines most often on social media instead of a physical newspaper. And that’s fine. News is news, no matter what medium you use. The problem I’ve noticed with consuming news through social media, though, is the short-term memory users have developed.

It seems users scrolling through their Facebook or Twitter feed are accustomed to seeing headlines such as “Wisconsin officer shot and killed” or “2 dead in California school shooting” or “Drunk driver kills family of 4.”

When you constantly see these devastating headlines, you start to become immune to how they affect you personally.

Not only has it become easy to scroll past negative news with a “Jeez, not again. That’s terrible.” mindset, it’s become easy to forget about it a week later.

We’re all habits of it.

One week Twitter users all band together and rally about a certain controversial topic. The next week it’s forgotten about as something else pops up. It’s that short-memory coming into play on social media.

Remember Cecil the lion? Do people still care lions are being hunted and kill?

Remember Ebola and the panic on Twitter?

Remember Harambe and the outrage at the Cincinnati Zoo?

Remember when everyone wanted to stop Kony in 2012? Did they? Is he alive? What happened?

Remember the Orlando nightclub shooting? Remember Ferguson? The Flint water? Freddie Gray? Alton Sterling? The countless police officers shot dead in the line of duty?

Anyone remember the name Brock Turner? He sexually assaulted an unconscious female behind a dumpster and served just three months in jail. Turner was a Stanford University swimmer, something national media outlets led with instead of him being a criminal.

The Twitter outrage was huge and grew enormously when Turner’s dad, Dan, wrote a letter to the judge.

“Now he barely consumes any food and eats only to exist. These verdicts have broken and shattered him and our family in so many ways. His life will never be the one that he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve.”

That was part of the lengthy letter. There was no mention or thought given to how the incident impacted the victim’s life.

Turner is now out of jail as sexual assault continues to be a big problem on campuses. The push to put a stop to it and educate students was in full force during Turner’s trial. It has since lost some of its steam.

Social media can be a powerful tool. While arguments and disagreements are natural, social media has also made a difference when people unite to fight for the same cause.

But trends come and go. One week online America seems to care about the Russians having intel on our government. The next week the “Cash me outside howbow dah” girl becomes the talk of Twitter.

It’s one thing after another, and we all roll with it.

Is there a solution to this? Who knows. Online habits are hard to break. And keeping up with what’s trending can make what happened a week ago a distant memory.

But if people truly want to make a difference when outrage is sparked, they must know tweeting and hashtagging about it for 1-2 weeks won’t get the job done.

sam.herder@ecm-inc.com