Friday, August 27, 2010

Social Media Depleting Heroes?

When we think of "heroes," we think of two types of people.

1) Super Heroes: These are the guys in the comic books and the movies who fight for justice, and perform epic feats of epicness.

2) Real Life Heroes: The people who go above and beyond the call of duty to give much of themselves to help their fellow man.

There are countless heroic stories out there about many people who have done great things to help improve the quality of life for other people on this planet. However, for various reasons these real life heroes are not having their stories heard. Why is this? I am starting to cast my eye toward social media.

Now, this is not to say that social media is evil, because when used properly it isn't. This is instead to say that social media is doing something to people in general in terms of how they process news and information. Twitter and Facebook give us almost instant access to news. There is no waiting period and almost instant gratification. Just as soon as we see one news story, there is a new one ready to take its place. This rapid fire information almost provides us with the sense that if we actually take the time to read an entire news article, we may miss out on the next big story.

Likewise, since we as a culture seem to be fixated on the types of stories that involved immoral acts committed by unscrupulous characters, this means that even more positive stories fall to the wayside. Is social media really contributing to the notion that we have so little time until the next piece of news comes out that we don't have enough time to invest into reading stories and actually honoring real life heroes?

I tried to think of the most recent honest-to-goodness heroes in our country over the past couple of years. I purposely did not do any research in order to prove my point of how little time we give to those who truly deserve the recognition. Please do not think that the lack of names is lazy, it is to prove a point.

1) Current Military Service Men and Women. These guys do so much for a country and we don't give them enough credit.

2) Sully. I can't even remember his full name, but this is the pilot who successfully crash landed the passenger plane in the Hudson River, in a manner that prevented any loss of life.

3) The man who jumped onto the subway tracks to push another man down so that the train passed only inches above their heads. Both individuals were fine. I don't recall his name either, but I distinctively remember President George W. Bush acknowledging him during one of his final State of the Union addresses.

4) The Passengers of Flight United 93 for their heroic sacrifice on 9/11 to prevent that group of terrorists from strike another target that would have claimed hundreds of other lives.

5) Mother Theresa. 'Nuff Said.

That's four entries. I'm sure we can debate about other people who could be added to this list. The point is that I've only recalled these specific people. Now I will grant that truly heroic events are rare and that this list wasn't going to be overflowing with names as is, but surely between the time Sully landed that plane and now, there have been actions taken by people that are equally deserving of praise. Are we just too caught up with negative stories to notice? Or are we too conditioned by rapid news provided by social media to invest the time in stories that would honor real life heroes?

Your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.


  1. I think that heroes can be honored and their stories can be shared, sometimes, more effectively by social media.

    Take for instance Scott Harrison and his work with charity:water, which has a growing social media presence and was part of the first Twestival.

    With social media, I believe that so many more people have been alerted to global causes, like charity:water and its work with clean water internationally. Sure, they may not remember the names of the people who started the movement, but what's more important: the person who started it or the cause itself?

    When I look at charity:water and how far it has come, I just think that it all started with a guy, a cause, and the ability to spread the word. :)

  2. Chesley Burnett "Sully" Sullenberger III, and Wesley Autrey was the guy who rescued the stranger on the subway tracks

  3. Also, Mother Teresa died in 1997. I'm not saying good things haven't been done in her name since then, but it seems kind of a stretch to put her in a list of heroes from the last couple of years.

    Still, I realise you were making a point, and it could be said that if you can't think of anyone other than Mother Teresa, who died more than ten years ago, to round out your five-person list of real-life heroes, you have a problem.

  4. Where did all the posties gone AHHH! <3 Leslie