Every time a tragic event happens, humans will react with emotions like disbelief, shock, sadness, anger and for some of us, humor. There are many factors that go into how we react to each individual event. Those factors may include: physical proximity to said event, background, personal experiences, upbringing – just to name a few. I am of the opinion that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to react to events like these – celebration being an exception, which would be an absolutely despicable reaction to a tragedy.
Social media has given us a real-time window into the varying personalities of the human species, and how differently we all react to tragedies like Monday’s terrorist attack in Boston. Some people will take to social media to express their feelings; some will take to social media just to view other people’s feelings. This is all part of the human catharsis. Conflicting emotions will often clash, which will lead to a subset of reactions to the tragedy itself.
Humor is the most delicate of emotions to express during a tragedy. While it is not a wrong emotion to express after a tragedy, it may not always be the best emotion for many to hear or read. A well constructed, but poorly timed joke will rub many people wrong, but may make others laugh. Combining a poor joke with poor timing will rub even more people the wrong way. Someone who makes jokes, or attempts to make jokes after a tragedy shouldn’t automatically be labeled as “evil”, that may just be how that person copes during an absolutely mind-bending situation. Sure, that person may not react that way if a tragic event were to happen close to home, or personally affect them, but I would like to think that that person would be understanding of others who aren’t as affected using humor to process what has happened, I know I would. I also understand how those closely affected may not want to be exposed to tasteless jokes that are made in the minutes after a tragedy.
Humor during a tragedy can be a very grey area, and it is probably best to know your crowd, and in social media, your crowd is the whole world.
I will admit that some of the jokes on Twitter in the hours after the event did make me laugh. They were a very much needed tension breaker during a very confusing event. I did also see a lot of jokes that were horrible, partly because they were lazy or poorly constructed combined with being in poor taste. I can only imagine how hard those are for some to take, especially for those affected.
I witnessed many people who were making good – albeit tasteless – jokes get crucified on Twitter. I naturally wanted to react to the reaction of those who objected, with my own sarcastic reaction to their reaction of a reaction, but I chose not to. I also saw some the people who were making jokes reply to those who disapproved by taking the high road, and replying in a classy and understanding way, rather than responding in a confrontational manner.
Outside of social media, in my real life – two thousand plus miles away from Boston – I heard my share of lazy, unfunny, tasteless attempts to express humor. It was easy for me to not get offended by these because of some of the factors I’ve already listed. Also, some of these “jokes” were made by people I know quite well – people who I can say without doubt, would act heroically if a tragic event were to take place two feet in front of them.
It is important for everyone to understand that humans all react to tragedy in different ways. While it may be best for a joker to use some discretion while making tasteless jokes, try not to be too critical of their attempt of expressing the emotion they feel most comfortable with.