Trigger Warning: This piece contains descriptions of physical and death, mentions of Grenfell, Gaza, Paris attacks and New Zealand attacks.
To be honest, I never know what my stance on social media is. I’m always flip-flopping between thinking it’s a great place to connect with people and with it being an extremely toxic place. But I love Twitter. Twitter is where I get my news. It’s a fact that most news is on Twitter way before any articles get written up. People often live-tweet events while they are taking place. Basically, Twitter has replaced traditional news outlets as my go-to for breaking news, it’s great for letting me know what’s going on immediately.
The danger with social media platforms like Twitter is that it is unfiltered. So yes, you’re more informed, can corroborate sources, make up your own mind in this world of biased news reporting, but you also have to prepare yourself for what you’re opening up to see. This world is a horrible place and many have become desensitized to awful events, deaths, and tragedies.
Regardless of how much I see, it still gets to me.
I remember Grenfell, I’ll never not remember Grenfell. I wasn’t there, I knew no-one in that building. But every now and again, I’ll get flashbacks of the coverage and end up in tears. I watched it unfold on Twitter, watched helplessly as others filmed people banging on their windows, begging for help. Ultimately dying. I scanned through countless records of the events, from eyewitnesses to people filming their own last moments.
I can’t imagine the trauma that the onlookers suffered, because I still feel like I live with an aspect of that trauma, simply from witnessing it second hand. It hurt. I would have done anything to have been able to help them.
I remember a few years ago, Gaza was being attacked (which is sadly a regular occurrence but my first time hearing of it through this lens). I follow so many who live there, on social media and I remember their first-hand accounts, their reality. I would go to sleep and wake up obsessively checking their social media feeds for updates. Not of the catastrophe but of themselves, desperately praying they’d made it through the night. Unable to sleep some nights in absolute fear for them.
There are people who don’t know me, who I’ve never spoken to but whom I so desperately needed to be safe.
I remember the Paris attacks, the videos that flooded the internet. The horror, the helplessness – I couldn’t help myself, I devoured every drop of information. Every horrible detail about it. It’s the same with the school shootings, the terror attacks, the on-goings in Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Venezuela and every other part of the world that is bleeding.
I don’t know when my sick fascination with horror began, or why I just can’t stop scrolling.
And then the New Zealand attacks occurred and I was not prepared. Such violence in a place of prayer, during such a commonplace event. See this time I wasn’t looking. The videos popped up on my timeline – two videos. One of the shooters live streaming the attack and another from inside the mosque of the causalities. And I knew, just like the others that these would be embedded in my mind forever.
There are some things you cannot unsee.
So here is my dilemma, I feel by even discussing this that I am making the issue about myself. I’m lucky enough to have never endured such evil, those who have are the real sufferers of trauma. So then comes the real question, if I ignore these videos because it’s hard to watch – am I being ignorant? Am I willfully avoiding the truths of this world?
I don’t have all the answers, but what I do know is that I am human. The overload of information and trauma can be overwhelming and when it gets to the point where I am now, curled up in bed, feeling sick, unable to function and utterly helpless – well at this point I’m allowed to log off. I’m allowed to process and heal.
Maybe it means that I am too sensitive, but I don’t think our brains were made to take in this much all the time. That this wonderful creation that allows us to share what’s happening in the world can also be bad for us. That mental health is real and sometimes being ignorant for a little bit is how we survive.
The truth is we can’t help everyone – we can share things, we can fundraise, we can bring awareness to certain topics. But we can’t always help everyone the way we want to and that is a hard pill to swallow. Therefore, if logging off for a little bit is your way of coping? So be it.