The aftermath of the tragic accident in which an SUV barreling down the wrong side of I-275 crashed into a car carrying four Sigma Beta Rho fraternity brothers, killing all five as the cars exploded into flames upon collision, has left many horrified and shaken.
The fatal crash has been seen by thousands after a woman driving in the parallel southbound lane witnessed the SUV traveling in the wrong direction and took out her camera phone, recording the moment of impact and the moments preceding it and posting it to her personal Facebook.
While she later took down the video from Facebook, where it was shared and re-posted by many, it was posted by several news local news outlets, and has been viewed thousands of times.
Indeed, we live in an information-saturated world, in which any bit of information we seek to know or see is simply a search and click away. But the question of what purpose posting this video serves remains unanswered.
News organizations should certainly not withhold information from readers, serving as filters or buffers between the general public and the truth. However, in this instance, posting the videos serve no greater purpose other than driving up ratings and viewership of their own sites – though that may not have been the original intention behind posting it. Simply because information exists, does not mean news organizations should feel pressured into providing it.
The video serves no additional informative purpose – viewers watch the crash unfold accompanied by the shrieks of the video taker. It does not serve to tell more of a story, nor does it serve a greater good.
It preys off of the desensitized, voyeuristic curiosities of a society filled with Pavlovian conditioned Internet junkies, who have been trained to click a mouse to seek out more feeling – the macabre, the sensational and the horrific that we seek from watching videos and movies.
But the problem is what we see in the video is not a movie.
It is horror. But it’s a horror that’s very raw and real, and actually took the lives of four men – men who were sons, brothers, boyfriends, friends, classmates and students. If the intent of posting the video was to allow us to feel more empathy toward the victims and their families by witnessing the event firsthand, it is a much sadder reflection on our diminishing capacity for empathy than it is on news outlets’ need to stay relevant.
While the men died in public, on one of the busiest highways in the city, the question that needs to be asked is whether we, as individuals, would want the final moments of life – intimate moments that often, when planned, are reserved to be shared with only with the closest loved ones – to be broadcast to the world for the sake of serving others’ curiosity.
Divya Kumar is a senior majoring in mass communications and economics.