In the 21st century, we’ve observed the dissolution of whatever was left of monoculture, or the perceived monoculture. We consume media whenever is convenient for us, in whatever channel we’re feeling at the moment. And as such, we don’t experience cultural events en masse, as a society, on a synched schedule, the way we did during the golden age of broadcast media.
Except when there’s breaking news of a national tragedy, or an event that millions and millions of people perceive as a tragedy. That’s when our media consumption schedules all lock together, and suddenly we’re all reacting to the same stimuli. And naturally, we immediately turn to Facebook and Twitter, where we can work through our thoughts and emotions in real time before an audience of several hundred of our closest friends and acquaintances.
And no matter what’s brought us together on social media in these particularly loaded moments, patterns emerge in the ways we react, and over time, we can predict how certain people we know will react. Some basic types:
The ombudsman. Doesn’t say much while events are unfolding. A day or so later, posts an emotionally distanced analysis of what everyone else’s reactions say about where we are as a society. (In other words: this post.)
The pop historian. Shares a link to a YouTube video for an appropriate song for the moment, because there’s an appropriate song for everything.
The activist. Posts links to nakedly subjective political blogs and online petitions, photos from the scene where news is breaking or from protests, status updates and Tweets from similarly-minded people, and lengthy or frequent observations about how the current news is really about larger, long-standing issues.
The feeler. Expresses, in a series of status updates, fear, vulnerability, sadness, empathy, hope, etc. Often exhibits sharing habits similar to the activist, but instead of tying that shared content to more macro sociopolitical issues, explains how that content makes her/him feel, and how it relates to his/her own life.
The troll. Observes how friends and acquaintances have reacted, then takes an opposing stance. Frames the tragedy as a sort of comeuppance for the victim(s), or for society at large. Gets off on the attention and doesn’t actually believe much of what s/he is saying.
The reactionary. Behaves almost exactly like the troll, except the reactionary really believes what s/he’s saying and probably adds Ayn Rand references.
The escapist. Posts observations about how, whatever happens, nothing has changed, recent events tell us nothing new about our society, nothing will change, and no one’s reactions actually matter. Reserves emotions for movies and TV, and will post about those subjects shortly.
The God-botherer. Recommends prayer as a solution.
The obliviant. Shares updates/Tweets/photos relating to decadent meals, the beach, bike rides, landscape and greenery, and so on. Is enjoying “best day ever!!!!!”
What am I missing? What other patterns of response have you observed in the wake of one of those rare events that brings us all to the same page as a society?