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Communicating A Tragedy (Part One): Anxiety

Not only is the Pretty Words blog meant for my first-person inner musings and as a vent machine, I also use it to analyze and marvel at the ways human beings communicate with one another, for better and for worse.

For starters and to be absolutely clear, I have nothing new to add from a journalistic standpoint to the information, mourning and debates about the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy that hasn’t already been covered, and I’m certainly not a journalist who manufactures phony agendas, unlike many others, just to disgustingly attract traffic to my website and garner attention. That ain’t me. I think we all know that this country needs to have a serious overhaul of the gun laws and a simultaneous eradication of the stigma connected to mental illness (if Adam Lanza had mental illness) and access to treatment. I will not be repeating it here.

What I want to discuss first, however, is an interesting and super-annoying quirk of human communication whenever something bad happens on a national or even on a regional level: Anxiety gabbing.

Folks may not know what to say, but feel they’ve got to say something, and that “something” is what we all already know.

For example, I’ve lived in New Jersey my entire life. I have yet to experience a Winter when it doesn’t snow at least once. We may not get pounded with the white stuff as badly every year as others, some Winters we only get a few light snowfalls, but we always get some snow. But every snowfall, without fail, someone, perhaps several people you know will need to play Town Cryer and chronicle the snow day OUT LOUD as if they’ve never seen or experienced snow in their lives. The thought of a snowfall and all the anxiety-producing elements around it: driving in it, shoveling it, power outages, all serve to push already anxious folks to spread that anxiety around like a plague. Without fail. Every Winter.

“Oh, the snow’s supposed to start in an hour or so..”

10 minutes later: “The snow’s falling. Did you see?”

15 minutes after that: “It’s not covering the ground yet, but it’s falling steadily. Did you know?”

An hour later: “Will we be able to drive? What kind of car do you have?”

And it goes on and on even though we can all look outside and see the snow falling. Annoying. Pointless. Panic mongering. Human.

The same thing happened on Friday afternoon. We were all dumbfounded, confused and disoriented. Folks didn’t know what to say. The only thing some people could do is send “information” around that we all were getting. Not helpful at all.

But at least this wasn’t nearly as bad as some of the irresponsible media outlets and how they chose to convey information about the shooting…

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Kellie Murphy

Kellie C. Murphy, Journalist: Motivated by the “buzz” of the news – information equals stimulation – I’m fixated on life and experience. I chase down opinions on hot topics, analyzing and synthesizing those unique voices into something fulfilling for an audience. I’m constantly asking the question, “What do people consider news?” and using traditional AND new media tools (blogs, social marketing, podcasts, real-time photography) I’ll cover all workable angles of a story. Bachelor of Arts Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ Double Major: Journalism & Mass Media and English Literature

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