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Shipwrecked on social media

So I almost missed the latest controversy. Apparently a video went viral over the weekend when I wasn't looking and when I wake up on Monday I find out an entire cycle of outrage, indignation, vitriol and bitterness had unfolded 'ere I was away.

So I almost missed the latest controversy. Apparently a video went viral over the weekend when I wasn't looking and when I wake up on Monday I find out an entire cycle of outrage, indignation, vitriol and bitterness had unfolded 'ere I was away.

Apologies for missing out. See, I don't look at social media when I'm not at work. That's not to say I'm procrastinating here at the office, so much as it is to say that I treat my Facebook page like a job-and for that job, I don't work weekends.

I spent this weekend exploring the depths of an alien ocean in a computer game called "Subnautica", where I was tasked to survive on the open ocean of an alien world with limited means available to me. It has been a thrilling experience, one I'd recommend to any fan of Jules Verne.

The horrors of the deep ocean seem a far easier beast to face than the horrors of Facebook. Social media is, I've surely said before, a plague upon our society. It is rotting the minds of our children and decaying our unity as a nation. Fortunate that the subsuming of civilization will at least be tweeted in real-time.

If you, like me, hadn't heard, the latest controversy involves selectively edited video clips and a group of students from Covington Catholic School, which is apparently in Kentucky. They were in Washington D.C. to give their annual participation in the "March for Life" which demonstrates opposition to abortion when they apparently ran afoul of participants of another protest, and were subjected to harassment prior to a well-publicized "confrontation" where, devoid of context, a student and a Native American man beating a drum were filmed facing off, with a large group of students seeming to have surrounded the Native American man. Then, either through exaggeration, misinterpretation or hyperbole, these students became "viral sensations" when the footage was circulated and, lacking context, it was first interpreted one way, then interpreted another, and now it seems everyone has fallen back to their respective ideological lines and the issue is blowing past almost as quickly as it blew up.

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These outrage cycles are hardly new, but even I'm surprised at how this one nearly passed me by. The whole nation, including the President, is commenting on this, and here I am trying to build a submarine. Am I out of touch? Or has the fast-moving mass media Internet current simply reached a new threshold of speed?

Thing is, and of course I'm biased, but I think I had the better time than the people sharing, arguing over and losing their jobs over reactions to this video. As insane celebrities and apparently public figures threaten violence against teenagers or label headgear as hate speech or decry that the media has simply become propaganda without principles and while everyone fights tooth and nail to defend or deny the truth of their eyes, easily deceived, I discovered a species of giant crab living on an indescribable ocean floor.

You all can decide who is right or wrong in this new controversy, I'm not here to weigh in on that, though I earnestly condemn the sloppy news reporting that helped launch this controversy in the first place. I just wanted to point out how uncanny it is-for the whole nation to get swept up in something, something seemingly enormous and impactful, and for it to so easily sweep right on by.

It's like social media is a porthole, peering out into an immense blue sea. Through the clouds of sediment or the scattered bands of sunshine, shadows slither past, and you can only see so much through this tiny circle of glass-never enough to truly understand what's out there, only enough to make haphazard hypotheses.

That's what it's become today, in a day where cameras are everywhere, the truth lies more distorted than ever. Now the "facts of the case" are a matter of perspective and the ones whose responsibility it is to keep their heads above water and report the facts are the primary messengers of misinformation.

I'd say we all could all use a splash of clarity in these murky times. Step away from the keys, stop all the downloading. You have better things to do than be angry on the Internet. This controversy has left esteemed news carriers in disgrace-don't let yourselves get caught up in their undertow.

Opinion by Iain Woessner
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