One American Citizen

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Monday, January 27, 2020

How Social Media has Changed Us

     Social media is one of the most normal things in life these days. Most people don't go a day, let alone an hour, without checking in to Facebook or Instagram. But has it really helped us, or has it done more harm than good. Obviously there are many different issues with it, but I am going  to focus on one that may be overlooked completely. And yes, I completely understand that this post is a type of social media.  I'm going to be talking about how social media has changed us into a fear driven society.
     20 years ago, if you wanted to let your neighbor know about a suspicious car or person walking by, you had to either pick up the landline or physically go over there to tell them. Now days, you can join countless neighborhood watch groups on Facebook. I am part of them, not because I actually get any useful information, but because it intrigues me to watch the fear that a single post can stoke in a community. For instance, a post about a car circling the neighborhood can turn into a frenzy of speculation and almost always ends with it being something like a delivery driver that is lost, or a family member trying to find a house. Now, there have been great uses of this tool. Many missing persons have been located because of social media. You can literally post about a missing person and within hours, that post has made it to different states. There have been many success stories on Facebook, but those are few and far between. Most post are an example of the fear that people live in daily.
     The one that always gets me is the loud noise post. Almost every year throughout June and July, there are countless post asking if people heard the gunshots that went off. Now, on first read that sounds pretty scary. Guns going off in the neighborhood are never good. But remember It's June and July 4th is right around the corner. Most likely that loud noise was the teens down the street lighting some fireworks off a little early. The point being, with all the negative post on social media along with the constant coverage of gun violence, that posters mind immediately went to gunshots. 
     I'm going to switch gears to a different example that has directly impacted my region and people I know. The Boeing 737 MAX crisis. Being from the Seattle area and having many family and friends that have worked or continue to work for this company, I understand the stress that this has put the employees under. But what make these crashes so special? There have been many other tragic crashes before. Two big things. One being that these were nearly brand new aircraft just off the assembly line and the other, social media.
     Prior to the MAX crashes, people generally just heard about crashes in foreign countries through the news. There was relatively little talk on social media about them. Nobody ever said they weren't gonna fly on a particular plane because of a crash. Lets take an earlier model of the 737, the classic. During the 90's there were two fatal crashes caused by a malfunctioning rudder. The two crashes happened in similar fashion and were quickly linked to a similar problem. It took 11 years for the FAA to issue a definitive cause and suggested fix. Not only that, there were 6 other incidents and accidents that have been linked to a failing rudder unit. Now I would bet that most readers have never heard of these crashes because social media wasn't around in the 90's. Had these crashes happened today, there would be a panic about flying on any 737. Most people don't even realize that they have flown on they same model aircraft in these accidents.
     So is it rational, that through the media and social media, people are swearing off ever flying on a MAX? Probably not. There has been so much technical information put out on the news that it has overwhelmed people without aviation experience. Boeing has admittedly made mistakes and is working hard to correct them, but they are not the only ones to blame. The pilot training and maintenance standards by the airlines involved were sub-standard to US training requirements. These were tragic accidents that could have been handled better, but that doesn't mean that the airplane isn't safe. The only thing that has portrayed it as an unsafe airplane is social media. These planes are not all that different from the 737's that are still flying today and have been flying since the 60's. The 737 has a great safety record that has been completely overlooked by the media and those on social media.
     The bottom line is, social media has stoked fear in the flying public that is irrational. Self proclaimed experts putting misinformation out there for the public to read. People need to take a step back and look at the big picture. We just had the safest decade for commercial aviation ever, even including the two MAX accidents. I have no doubt that once these planes are cleared to fly again, these will be the safest airplane Boeing has ever built. So lets wait to pass judgement on these airplanes. Lets let the manufacturer and regulators come to a conclusion and then assess the data. And let's keep fear from spreading.

-American Citizen
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