Social Media Inaction

I’ve found this post difficult to write – any ability I have to be dispassionate has well and truly abandoned me on this one. No doubt some may find it overwrought, but that’s just the way it’s going to be tonight.

It’s true that a lot of horrible things happen in the world. Somehow, though, the story of Lashanda Armstrong, who drove her car into the freezing Hudson River and killed all but one of her four children, has struck a sad, terrible chord within me that I can’t quite quiet.

Perhaps it’s the fact that she was even younger than me. Or maybe it’s the horrible notion that, despite the love of her four children, a good reputation at work and her commitment to her education, she was so miserable and depressed that she saw no way out of her situation.

Today, what cut me to the core was reading about her sole surviving child, Lashuan, insisting that his relatives take him back to the spot where his mother veered off into the icy depths. According to the NY Daily News, “Lashaun looked at the balloons, stuffed animals and flowers left by mourners at the dock. But mostly he stared at the water.” It’s a stark, awful image of a young life shattered.

I honestly didn’t think the story could get any worse, until I read this, further down in the article: “Armstrong posted a macabre Facebook apology just 30 minutes before the murder-suicide. ‘I’m so sorry everyone forgive me please for what I’m gonna do…. This Is It!!!!’ she wrote from her BlackBerry at 7:13 p.m.”

I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t. A full thirty minutes before this horrendous, tragic event took place – an event that took not only Armstrong’s life, but the lives of three small children – she posted a Facebook message that quite plainly showed her distress.

(If I’m behind the times on the Facebook post, please forgive me. My main source of information didn’t mention it.)

I mean, if our endless involvement with social media had the power to do any real good, surely it would lie in preventing events like this?

Several months ago, a close friend of mine posted a very dark Facebook status update while buried in the midst of depression. I wasn’t near a computer at the time, so I didn’t see it straight away. A mutual acquaintance (who is not so close to my friend) did see it though, and texted me immediately, asking whether I knew about it.

As soon as I received the text, I got on the phone to my not-so-okay friend and talked to her. I don’t think she would have done anything truly dangerous, but I’ve always felt relieved that, thanks to the immediate powers of communication that we have at our disposal, very little was left to chance that night.

I don’t know who Lashanda Armstrong was friends with on Facebook (or otherwise), and I’ll most likely never know whether anyone tried to contact her, or even if they saw the message in time. I can only imagine the grief that those who were privy to her profile must be feeling.

It made me think, though, about how casually we can breeze over the less-than-chipper posts and tweets that so often litter our feeds. I may have been there for my friend that night, but I also hid a person’s status updates from my homepage for a while because I was tired of their constant whinging about their romantic troubles. If things with that individual had gotten worse, I wouldn’t have even known.

It just seems so awful to me that, even with our almost compulsory smartphones, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and goodness knows what other bullshit to theoretically keep us in constant contact with one another, when the chips are really down, we can still find ourselves utterly alone. Clearly, no amount of social networking made Lashanda Armstrong feel any more connected to her friends and family – at least, not enough to deter her from her final, catastrophic decision.

I can only hope that Lashanda Armstrong and her children have found some sort of peace, and that her boy Lashuan comes, somehow, to accept and forgive her actions and move past them.

Amassing a giant web of friends and contacts is, I think, useless if it can’t be used for something positive. I know that, for my part, I will be keeping a closer eye on the online musings of my friends from now on.

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About missaleksia

Street press journalist and culture vulture based in Melbourne, Australia. I enjoy Australian hip hop, obsessively following television shows, healthy debate, baking and wine. My views are my own. Keep up to date with me on Twitter: @missaleksia
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