Most everyone in the wake of the Giffords shooting wants to "do the right thing" in their online behavior. But in this instance, social media and tragedy reveal monstrous behavior.
[Editor's note: U.S. congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head and seriously wounded in a Tucson, Arizona shooting rampage Saturday morning that left six people dead.]
The shooter's media manifestos are online in lurid detail. Getting to know Loughner is so easy, it feels surreal. Loughner's social media footprints are easy to find – yet shared almost like social media gluttony.
The Giffords tragedy is also an example of social media at its most confused: we don’t know what to make of the fact that Giffords YouTube channel subscribes to only two people on YouTube – one is Loughner.
Loughner's primary and secondary YouTube pages are still up. We know his usernames were Classitup10 and Starhitshnaz (used to post one video around various sites). In fact, blogs and news outlets are making a heyday out of posting the killer's bizarre videos. This results in upping Loughner's channel and video views into the millions.
His MySpace page was taken down – the "fallenasleep" page, as well as a lesser known, but likely associated page with the same username as his secondary YouTube account, Starhitsnaz.
Of course, screengrabs of the page is readily available. Gizmodo posted screencaps of Loughner's main MySpace page and disturbing imagery before MySpace's deletion.
Same thing happened to Loughner's Facebook page. Few have commented on the bizarre image of his "Info" page – just as only a few have noticed that his primary YouTube account seems to have been altered after he was taken into custody.
But this is the age of real-time social media. People notice. Blogs post records and copies of what was made public.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing for a public hungry to understand why these awful things happen. Answers to shore up the void of uncertainty, of not knowing how to prevent such horror from recurring.
Social media provides community for strangers, where people can share the thoughts that need sharing. We collectively find ambient intimacy in times of pain.
The coming together social media can provide helps us stay human in the face of inhuman monsters that murder little girls over the ideology of a nation's flag.
The social media accessibility in this tragedy is like an all-you-can-eat buffet of links, usernames, videos, comments, accusations and more clues – but one where some people don't know when or how to stop eating.
Media outlets are poring over this stuff, and on Twitter and Facebook there's always more, and they don't know when they're full, like that guy in Monty Python's Meaning of Life, Mr. Creosote, who shouts at waitstaff in the restaurant to bring him a bucket so he can vomit and resume eating.
There's sharing links and trying to understand, and then there's the person who registered a brand new and clearly fake Twitter account for Loughner as "Classitup10" days after he was apprehended. Or the just-created Blogspot blog under the same name.
Who does something like this, and why?
Or the many Twitter users trying to string along and possibly collect followers Tweeting bait such as, "in the next Tweet I'll show you his *other* YouTube channel" – a link anyone could find.
Twitter still explodes like Groundhog Day with rumors and finger pointing between the Left and the Right. Social media is a grey area between free speech and threatening behavior.
Sarah Palin's Facebook "hit list" map with crosshairs on Giffords is still live, open to comments, and shareable as of this posting. Is this using Facebook for willful provocation?
And there's Mashable posting on their Facebook page not a full day after the horror asking like OMG what does everyone think!!??
Social media social workers said enough at that: notably Arianna O'Dell who called them out saying,
How does Mashable honestly think people are going to respond to that?
It’s terrible! I’m not sure what other response they are looking for.
In this shooting 5 were killed and 17 were injured. People who have husbands, wives, children, siblings, and parents. How do you think they feel right now?
Asking people “Tell us what you think.” Is incredibly distasteful. Instead they should have offered their condolences while explaining the social media angle. No company or blog should use a tragedy in order to get more views. Be tactful for God’s sake.
Sad that it's come to this. Social media can be, and is, used for astonishing acts of good.
MySpace and Facebook removed the shooter's pages – we may never know whether it was out of respect, or for investigation.
YouTube keeps the video channels live.
We all want to know what the right thing to do is in light of a tragedy that rocks us to the core.
In the age of online communities, when a criminal leaves a footprint big enough to examine in detail, the choices are less clear. We want to learn to become a better society, one in which these things cannot happen, while everyone remains free.
But how far is too far?