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Crushes, Confessions and Chaos

On a noontime T ride, while reveling in the aroma of day-old Thai food and body odor pungent enough to curl nose hairs, I took a look around at my fellow commuters. In one corner, the token mentally-unhinged passenger was having a full-fledged conversation with himself about trickle-down economics. In another, an elderly woman was juggling a tabloid magazine from one rosary bead to the next.  And behind me, a burly man was either clearing his throat or channeling James Brown (regardless, he was cooler than I could ever hope to become). These outliers aside, everyone else on the packed train was engaged in the very same activity: staring at their smartphones with focus I can only access during a heated round of croquet.

However, let he who is without an iPhone cast the first Droid. My phone is often the first thing I look at in the morning and the last thing I look at before I go to sleep. I think there are happily married couples who spend less time looking at each other in bed. And I’m not alone when I say that the nuptial between my phone and I was officially ordained by His Awkward Sweatshirt-ness himself, Mark Zuckerberg. His social media empire has changed the way an entire generation communicates, interacts—and flirts.

A week ago or so, I heard my roommate mention a new Facebook group, EC Crushes. As a pool of vomit formed in the back of my throat, I took a look at what this page—completely unaffiliated with the college—had to offer: anonymous Emmanuel students virtually pouring their horny lil’ hearts out to their ideal inamoratos. The following is, in my opinion, the finest example of the page’s prose (names have been omitted to protect the sexually frustrated):

“I wouldn’t mind covering you in oil and riding you like a white stallion on the silk sheets of a queen bed, under a beachside canopy, until the morning light peeks over the mountain tops. This is my fantasy plus so much more. But I might want to start with saying hi to you.”

Be still my hard drive.

Capitalizing on the success of EC Crushes, Facebook saw an influx of several other Emmanuel student pages including—but not limited to—EC Confessions, EC Rumors and EC STD-Blotter . With each new addition, the sentiments shared became more and more spiteful. Playful mentions of white stallions on silk sheets suddenly turned into name-calling, slut-shaming and back-stabbing: slander which would soon become, in comparison, all the more petty.

It was through social media that I heard about it for the first time. The incident that turned the triumph of Marathon Monday into tragedy was rapidly being tweeted, liked and favorited with Halftime Show-verve. A cyber sensation before the first television network even had the opportunity to broadcast the happenings, I was getting more updates from the kid in my English class than any broadcaster on air.

So, who can be blamed when CNN reports that arrests had been made long before it finally occurred? Or when the New York Post publishes a front-page photo of two incorrectly-identified suspects? Journalism is a changed institution; an emphasis once placed on truth has been usurped by a need for speed. And the editors are just as beholden to the blame as we are. The familiarity with our newsfeeds and timelines have us all chomping at the bit for the fastest and easiest-to-consume pieces of information—some accuracy required.

The spectator at the finish line and my friend down the hall suddenly have as impressionable a public sphere as Brian Williams or Diane Sawyer—sans the crucial education, experience, impartiality and hair/make-up teams. Social media has blurred the line between what is true and what will grant the most viral attention. Whether it’s a secretly divulged online crush or an erroneous tweet about bombs found at Fenway Park, it makes no difference: both endorse the false façade of fact that social media so easily and so often presents. We’re all journalists reporting our own versions of the “truth”. And if that mule classified as a stallion is any inclination, we’ve got some lessons to learn.

Posted by on April 23, 2013. Filed under Around Campus,Around the Hub,Opinions & Editorials. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.