I’m up at 2:30 this morning because of the chirping of a bug.
This is the second time this sound has kept me up at night. Its trill sounds a lot like our septic pump alarm, both in frequency and in pitch — only quieter. Still, there’s something about it that gets inside the house, and into my ear, and wakes me.
I’ve narrowed it down to full moons. Last month, same thing.
I crept outside and around the side yard to check the septic control box; it was silent. The chirping was gone too, probably due to my footsteps falling too near the bug’s spot. The moonlight was so bright and pure, falling on each blade of blue grass. I realized my flashlight wasn’t needed. Struck by the sudden silence and unexpected beauty, I shut off my flashlight and took in the sight. (As long as I was up…)
The bug’s solo performance was for one night only; the following night the sound was gone.
Well, tonight’s a full moon again and my insect friend has again driven me out of bed. Grateful for the comforts of heat and electricity I started the coffee, read some of the Good Book on my Kindle, and now I’m here at my desk.
The news and images from the northeast take my breath away. I’m sure you saw them too. The explosive power of Hurricane Sandy herself, followed by the outrageous destruction of the intricate and complex structures and systems humans put in place to make our lives comfortable — to shield us ultimately from nature.
No wonder we call them “Acts of God.” Whether it’s the enthusiastic call of a cricket, or “the storm of the century”, we awake in awe to our tenuous lives and routines.
We are at nature’s mercy.
When lives are at stake, the first place people people go is online — for news, help, and comfort.
Among social networkers on sites like Twitter and Facebook, “Sandy” was the most trending hashtag and topic of the last two days.
Social media kept people connected and safe during the worst of the “Super Storm.”
Mobile devices provided communication and relief to millions up and down the coast. FEMA, the Red Cross, and other disaster relief organizations were able to spread information quickly. Far-away family and friends’ fears were eased too, because they were able to hear the voices, and track the locations of their loved ones.
The real-time reporting from all those millions of people online (everything from “my lights are flickering now” to more extreme cases of distress and urgency) changes the way we make sense of modern disasters. Even though I’m sitting here under clear skies many states away, I can’t ignore what’s going on. The immediacy of social media inspires generosity in prayer and donations.
But there’s another side; the bad element.
Disasters bring out mischief (that’s the nicest way to put it) in some people.
One guy posted fake news on Twitter, alarming thousands who saw his tweets. Just like yelling “Fire” in a crowded theatre falls outside your free speech rights. Freaking people out with bogus “news” is not only wrong, it probably borders on illegal.
Abuse of the Internet invites the inevitable monitoring and regulation that saddens and disturbs me. I love the freedom the Internet allows; I’m disgusted by those who use it to mislead others or distribute flat-out false information. Too bad we can’t all just monitor our own behavior and do the right thing. (There’s my inner Polyanna showing.)
Finally we have the tasteless side of Internet activity during stressful times.
Now I admit, I’m a shameless capitalist. I also note that some people will celebrate any occasion by pulling out their credit cards; that’s a fact. But to see a company dish up sales specifically to people in harm’s way makes you wonder. Instead of trying to think of a way to offer help or aid, American Apparel sent an email promoting discounts for soon-to-be battered hurricane state customers. Weird.
Just a thought: try a little tenderness. The best piece of advice I think I ever got about copywriting and marketing is to picture ONE face and speak to that person.
As someone who writes for the Internet daily, I’m reminded by this early morning’s news to never forget I’m talking to one person. When I post updates, write articles, tweet to my personal followers, and email my (or my clients’) lists, I see this; one person, one soul.
Yes, your reach may be in the thousands, even millions. But that realization only ups the ante.
We each have a personal responsibility to be decent and genuine, especially during a natural disaster. Maybe it’s the darkness, the desperate chirping song of my cricket, or the loneliness of being up in the middle of the night… anyway, I realize I’m preaching. (Sorry for that; I’ll reread this in the light of day and cringe at the earnestness.)
Companies and individuals will make mistakes, send obtuse email and post unreal updates. We’re human. But when people are panicking and bracing for havoc, your internet presence requires the same sensitivity you’d show a real live person. Please use the Internet for good.