Social Media Distorts Breaking News

Let’s face it, today the world has never been more angry, hateful, and afraid. With social inequality, political unrest, environmental degradation, and high standard of living disrupting the world, there remains another issue at large: Active shootings.

In 2019, active shootings have become a new global norm. Orlando, Las Vegas, Paris, Oslo, Peshawar, and now Christchurch. These notorious massacres demonstrate how turbulent times are. How hatred and fear remain alive and well.

Today, no one is safe. Active shootings do not discriminate against any nation or border. A sentiment that has perpetuated people to act irrationally when a scare or real incident occurs. The catalyst behind this irrationality is social media, people can easily distort and handicap breaking news stories through their posts.

Through the likes of Twitter and Facebook, we can react and respond to just about anything in life. A powerful luxury nonetheless that has amplified our need to constantly commentate. That’s a major problem considering the sensitive nature behind situations like active shootings. Facts are crucial, but they’re sadly overshadowed by comments and retweets.

Unless we are real reporters or possess accurate information, then added commentary is meaningless and unnecessary. Ninety-nine percent of the time, we don’t have all the facts when a news story is breaking. Breaking news is ongoing and social media just enables people to speculate on uncertainties.

Take for example the incident last Friday at the Westfield Century City Mall where Los Angeles residents feared that an active shooting had occurred. There were two narratives behind this incident, the real news versus the fake news advertised by people across Twitter.

When LAPD Officers had responded to multiple reports of a “Man with a Gun” at the Century City mall, it remained unclear if the suspect was indeed an active shooter. Officers were already on scene clearing the area. LAPD stated, “…but at this time we have NO evidence of a shooting or victims.”

Despite LAPD’s statement, people still spread the word that there was an active shooting. Yes, tensions were very high that day with the Christchurch mosque massacre. Regardless, people were irresponsible with information that was indefinite. That is how fake news spreads in real time.

Even the people that were evacuated did not fully have all the facts. I know first had because I was at the Century City mall when it happened. Shoppers and employees just had bits and pieces of information, but not the full story.


In the end, it was an assault with a deadly weapon and arson that stirred the Westfield Century City Mall scare. A case that was closed two days ago by LAPD Officers who arrested the suspect. Considering how the incident turned out, a day later Ann Arbor, Michigan experienced a similar situation.

Only this time, it was the popping of balloons that trigger an active shooting scare on the University of Michigan’s campus. Listen, any city today can be the next Christchurch or Virginia Tech. That being said, it’s comforting to know how fast law enforcement reacts to these situations.

The possibility of an active shooting taking place is a legitimate fear that we all have in the back of our minds. But when it does happen, fear briefly conquers the world along with politics. That was the Christchurch narrative, within 12 hours tweets about solidarity got replaced with partisan debates over gun control, white nationalism, and terrorism.

By no means am I blaming social media for a role in active shootings, but it’s definitely responsible for intensifying the war between facts and opinions. Social media may be a remarkable technology that keeps us connected in a world full of connectivity, but it’s become dangerous nonetheless. Today, people are using Twitter and Facebook for the wrong reasons.

These platforms have become the smoking gun, not only enticing more anger and hatred, but more “trolling” as well. With retweets serving as the new news of today, supporters and opponents are now inclined to come out of the woodworks to debate.

In an era of trolling and pure ignorance, facts now get lost in translation leading people to hyperbolize just about anything they see or hear. Twitter may have started out as a social networking and news service, but it has quickly morphed into this circus full of overreaction. This past week’s events proved that people can extrapolate any story with their own.

That’s not how news circulates. That’s how gossip turns into fear and it spreads like wildfire. People's voices despite their freedoms can inevitably distort the essence of reporting breaking news. As a society, we've gravitated towards political correctness, but it has adversely made us less cognizant of our words.

Words have repercussions no different than actions. I'm not questioning people's freedom of speech or feelings, I'm questioning their motives. I'm questioning the power one tweet can have in a community filled with mouthpieces, trolls, and ill-informed patrons. 

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