As a public service to Internet users everywhere, Snark-Infested Waters would like to offer these handy tips for how to behave online in the coming days and weeks when discussing what happened yesterday at the Boston Marathon.
1 ) Don’t joke about it. Period.
Yes, it IS too soon. It will be too soon for a long time. Humor is a coping mechanism, a stress reliever, a way to deal with unfathomable circumstances, and sure, one day we will be able to crack wise about this terrible event, but today is not that day.
2 ) Don’t politicize it.
People will inevitably try to lay some degree of blame for this on social condition X or political issue Y or government leader Z. Don’t be one of those people (known colloquially as “callous opportunistic jackasses”). The blame belongs one place only, and that is on the person or persons who did this. Using this as an opportunity to advance a selfish agenda is a slap in the face to everyone directly and indirectly involved in this tragedy.
Addendum the first: sarcastic remarks like “I can’t wait until so-and-so tries to blame this on such-and-such” is passively aggressively politicizing it. This is also obnoxious, perhaps more so. Don’t do it.
Addendum the second: using this situation as a springboard to go completely off-topic (“You know what’s worse than bombs? Wind turbines!”) is the height of self-centered arrogance. Knock it off.
3 ) Don’t compare tragedies.
Boston is now, and for lots of people it has very personal meaning. Don’t diminish or disrespect those feelings by sniffing that Boston isn’t as tragic as 9/11, Columbine, Newtown, et cetera. This isn’t a contest. All tragedies are valid, and claiming that this somehow does not measure up to (insert other tragic event here) is cold and soulless.
4 ) Exercise restraint in re-posting news stories.
This will be the focus of the local and national news for the week, and we will be inundated by information. There’s little need to constantly re-post every single news story. People who want information have plenty of places to get it, and they don’t need help from amateur news aggregators.
Also, if you must re-post things, fact-check anything that isn’t from a reputable news source first. Repeating wrong information helps no one.
5 ) People process things differently.
Let them, and don’t give them a hard time because they seem to be, from your perspective, over- or under-reacting. The degree to which one reacts, or doesn’t, is not necessarily indicative of an abundance or a lack of emotion on the matter. Dealing with tragedy is a very personal and subjective thing, and it’s not really your place to judge someone for not responding how you think he or she should.
6 ) Save your advice for how this could have been avoided/can be avoided in the future.
Telling people how you’d do things differently is not helpful. It really isn’t. It’s not going to change the past and, unless you are actually a public safety official, sharing your sage knowledge born of hindsight isn’t going to do a damned thing to prevent something like this from reoccurring.
7 ) Don’t mistake re-posting uplifting images for a real contribution.
Yes, sharing positive images with your Facebook friends might raise morale, for yourself and others, but there are real people in Boston hospitals who need blood much more than a feel-good meme. There will be people who will need money to offset medical costs or, unfortunately, funeral arrangements. Make a real donation to those who truly need it if you want to do some measurable good.
8 ) Avoid comments sections.
Seriously, stay away. They’re going to be filled with, as best, benign sentiments aimed at the victims of the bombings and, at worst, people the above-listed rules. Getting into debates with them are not productive and will only enhance any existing feelings of anger and frustration. When you reach the bottom of the page, stop reading before the comments section begins and move on.