I just found out that Osama bin Laden is dead. On Facebook.
Facebook, of course, is not the most reliable news source. So I went to my Twitter account and looked at a national news service’s page to cross-reference the info. It told me the same.
It wasn’t until my third step that I logged on to that particular news service’s website to really get the information I was seeking, but I believed what I was reading. I really only went through the motions of checking “the real” webpage because I felt like it was the responsible and credible thing to do.
And because I didn’t want to ever admit that it happened, that I heard about a major news story through my Facebook. I didn’t want to discover, from a status update, that the enemy we’d all been looking for, the Kingpin, had fallen.
Why? Because statistics say that 48% of young Americans find out about news through Facebook,  and I really don’t want to be responsible for making it 49%. Or, God forbid, 50%.
I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s because I once wrote for my local newspaper, the Tribune Chronicle of Warren, Ohio, and I would hear my editor talk with other newspapermen from around the state, their brows furrowed, talking about the end of printed news. Or maybe it’s because I’m a little bothered that I just discovered one of the top ten news stories of this year in a status update, sandwiched between one guy talking about online gaming and another talking about mushroom hunting.
I just found out that America’s top priority, the number one man on our most wanted list is dead, on Facebook. The site where I also find out that a guy I went to high school with is now in a relationship just told me that bin Laden is dead.
This is the kind of stuff that used to be declared by town criers, and later, newsboys on the corners of American cities. I’m sure that some would say that the advent of social media is a return to such times, but their wrong. When a newsboy declared that someone was dead, even an enemy, there must have been some kind of acknowledgement that this was a grave moment. I’m sure that when Hitler’s death was yelled, people cheered, but it was also grave, because the world had changed. If I could hear a newsboy yelling from my window now, I’m sure I’d feel like that.
But now, surrounded by triviality, it’s just another piece of information to be overtaken by another status update ten minutes from now. Now, there are no cheers, only silent “Likes.” There is the occasional comment, each more trivial than that which proceeded it. An era has ended, a journey completed, and we can only offer a few of our spare characters in ode to the men who have died and the resources we’ve exhausted to come to this point.
48% of young Americans find out about news through Facebook. Make that 49%.