Around 00:30 a.m. (Indian Standard Time) I came to know of the horrible mass shooting incident at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newton, Connecticut. As I read the news in horror, I was alarmed by the events that followed on Twitter and other social media platforms.
Today, when a story breaks, instead of turning to the news channels most of the netizens find social media a more attractive medium to learn about the news as it unfolds. The USP of Twitter is of course that apart from the news media professionals and associations, the general public gets involved and the news spreads like wildfire. everybody knows what happened and whodunnit in a matter of minutes. But then there is also a dark side to this amazing news-on-fire medium – what happens when a wrong piece of information starts circulating?
That’s what happened in the Connecticut shooting case. AP and other news media outlets identified and released the name of the shooter as Ryan Lanza, lo and behold, the law abiding citizens of the USA and beyond decided to take matters in their hands and within minutes everyone named Ryan Lanza with a social networking account was under attack. People searched for Ryan Lanza on facebook and twitter and decided that everyone with that name is a monster and needs to rot in hell.
As twitter-verse erupted with #RyanLanza hate tweets and facebook inboxes and walls of people with that name were bombarded with hate messages and death threats, the name Ryan Lanza started trending on twitter. In a normal world why would any normal person want to popularize a demon, a monster, a killer of innocent children? But then as it turns out twitter is the place where all normals decide to shred their normalcy clothes and put on their — world-is-going-to-end-and-I-am-going-to-cash-in — attires.
The wrong Ryan Lanzas were terrified and rightly so, a twitter handle belonging to one Ryan Lanza had 20 followers before the news of the shootings broke and within minutes of him posting what he thought was a harmless joke – he had 4,000+ followers and this was 9 hours ago. He soon felt the heat and begged people to leave him alone shouting in the face of digital signals – “I didn’t kill anyone”, but that was too late, the world knew him and everybody hated him. Here’s a snapshot from his handle taken last night –
If that’s not scary enough then what unfolded minutes later was even more horrific. After a few people realized that this guy wasn’t the killer because the killer was already dead and couldn’t possibly be operating his twitter account from hell, news media outlets broke the news that the killer’s name was actually Adam Lanza and Ryan was his elder brother in the police custody. This was enough to spark a second twitter troll-marathon. Everyone named Adam Lanza was being searched for and everyone was either apologizing to all the wrong Ryan Lanzas or were telling this particular victim that he had psychological issues and needed help.
And some twisted minds thought this was funny, others saw a business opportunity. Withing minutes, there were brand new facebook brand pages covering Ryan Lanza news, some didn’t mind cracking jokes and taking digs at all the wrong Ryan Lanzas of the world. Others who had spent their energies cursing Ryan Lanza had to re-gather and unleash their fury on Adam Lanza. The whole thing is so messed up, I feel for everyone with a surname Lanza, except of course for the real killer, whatever his name was, he doesn’t deserve any attention or mention.
All I can say is that we are well and truly caught in the social media web, and so many of us have lost our sense of reality. It is a disturbing trend, just as disturbing as the number of mass shootings that take place in the United States. Because if the gun-laws in the US need some serious looking into, so does regulation of social media on the internet. And by regulation I don’t mean or support the recent government track downs in various countries, it has to be the providers of these services that need to self regulate and ensure some kind of filtering or blocking mechanism is introduced if that’s at all possible, specially when stories like these break.