The dark side, the bright side

The tragedy here in Blacksburg earlier this week highlights the dark side and the bright side of technology and the Internet, and is a useful reminder that technology is neither good nor bad--how people use it--for good or for evil--determines its value at any point in time.

Part of the dark side is the intense and almost suffocating media coverage, which began while events were still unfolding. Just a few years ago, this would have been a largely local event for at least a day or two, but with satellite and Internet technology, news organizations were covering this before it was even over. There is something surreal sitting in your office listening to the sirens wailing almost continuously as they carry the wounded to local hospitals--and watching live news reports via the computer and Internet. I could have walked over the scene, taken pictures, and uploaded them to this site or to others, and indeed, others did exactly that.

The phrase "too much information" comes to mind in this context. The NBC videos provided by the killer are more than we need to know, and may likely spawn copycats, just as the killer himself was obviously influenced by a dark Korean film of murder and mayhem. The constant repetition of the phrase "country's worst massacre" will likely encourage the next deranged individual to try even harder to surpass the Blacksburg death toll.

On the blogs, there are already countless thousands of articles, mostly playing Monday morning quarterback about what should or should not have happened. At some point, it all becomes noise.

The bright side is that this very same technology, used in precisely the same ways, has enabled an outpouring of kindness and compassion. Email, blogs, and Web sites are being used to help the families of the victims, to organize counseling and support, to reach out to those suffering from the effects, to encourage prayer, and to just send a few words of comfort.

We have a mighty tool in our hands, and how we use it is a measure of who we are and what we stand for.

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