Social Media Before Reason

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The end comes, as it was always going to. Down a video phone.
The Doctor, Doctor Who

Social media is regularly used for circulating news and sharing whatever you're doing with your friends in the form of status updates, pictures, or videos. This can be really fun and addictive, and although spending a lot of time on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram might distract you from living in the moment, it usually won't actually hurt anybody.

But what if you find yourself in a dangerous situation that requires rapid action, such as a natural disaster, a medical emergency, or a crime in progress? The logical thing to do in this case is to either run to safety if you can't help or hurry to the victims' aid if you can, and yet some people are so hooked on social media that their first impulse is to start posting about it there before they even think about responding to the emergency. Sure, whatever's happening is newsworthy, but it'll be too late to do anything about it if you waste precious seconds fiddling with your screen.

This is Truth in Television due to its roots in human psychology — when you see an outright incredible scene, it so hard to believe it's actually happening that your first reaction will be to actually prove it's real by putting it on the Web. It can also be an aspect of Bystander Syndrome where everybody assumes that someone else is already taking care of it, and there's nothing for them to do but watch. Keep in mind that social media can also be used legitimately for sharing information during a disaster when other means aren't available; this trope is specifically about using it in a way that's inappropriate for the situation.

Compare with the Intrepid Reporter, a professional journalist who ought to know the risks they're taking by being there; Compare also with the Apocalyptic Log, which is left by someone in case they don't survive to tell the tale, instead of by some Twitter addict who just doesn't realize how much danger they're in. Related to New Media Are Evil and Everything Is Online. Sub-trope of Skewed Priorities.

Examples

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Code Geass, Lelouch's second Establishing Character Moment after his chess game is him rushing to help a truck that just had an accident, while everyone around him is merely taking pics and wondering why no-one called an ambulance yet. Note that this came out in 2006, before the advent of social media, but it takes place in (an alternate) 2017.
  • Yuri!!! on Ice:
    • A case of this happens in Episode 2. When Yurio arrives in Japan, he mentions knowing he can't post pictures or else his coach will find out where he is, but as soon as he finds a shirt he really likes (with a tiger on it), he takes a selfie with it and posts it anyway. His coach is not amused in the slightest.
    • Phichit seems to have a habit of taking embarrassing pictures of people and posting them online without their consent since since in his words, he just can't help himself. He does it twice in Episode 6, where he takes a picture of his coach Celestino when he's drunkenly passed out and when he uploads a racy picture of a drunk and naked Victor hugging Yuri.

    Comic Books 
  • In the 2013 The Green Team series from DC Comics, the leader type is initially puzzled as to how the assassin has tracked them down, until it's learned that the newcomer has been posting his location to a Facebook equivalent.
  • In the G.I. Joe (IDW) series, the Joes were assigned a online journalist codenamed Hashtag whose job was to improve the Joes public image by posting social media updates. By following her updates, COBRA was able to track the Joe team and ambush them.
  • The Shattered Glass incarnation of Ravage is a horrible social media addict who not only has a tendency to give up his location due to posting it on his social media accounts, he also likes taking selfies with someone he's sneaking up on in the background and sending them the picture.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In God Bless America, after Frank and Roxy's shooting at the cinema, they spot a guy filming it all on his cellphone — without any concern for his own safety. Frank shoots him right through his phone's camera lens.
  • In Deadpool, Negasonic Teenage Warhead starts tweeting in the midst of the confrontation between the heroes and villains. The villains obligingly wait for her to finish and even let her make the first move.
  • A variant: a common complaint about Found Footage Films, especially in the horror genre, is that the protagonists always seem to clutch their cameras for dear life, trying to film all of the horror going on even when logic suggests that they drop the camera and just run.
    • The Blair Witch Project, of all films, actually deconstructed this one. The reason Heather's continuing to film everything, long after it's become clear that she and her friends are lost, is because it's her way of coping with that fact. The screen on the camera makes the predicament she's in feel less real.
    • This is also deconstructed with the film Cannibal Holocaust, where the protagonists are a bunch of murderous scumbags who film their atrocities out of a sick sense of sadism.
    • Likewise, in [REC] 3: Génesis, when Atun tries to keep filming even after a Zombie Apocalypse has broken out, Koldo simply grabs his camera and smashes it. The rest of the film is shot conventionally, unlike the opening.
    • In the 2013 version of Carrie, during the title character's telekinetic rampage at the prom, the school photographer tries to film what's happening, and we briefly see the action through the lens of his camera, found footage-style. He gets a table to the face the moment that Carrie makes eye contact with the camcorder. The original version of the script was supposed to have a greater found-footage component; this scene was likely an artifact of that.
  • In Thor: The Dark World, Jane Foster is trying to get civilians to evacuate. She's incredulous they're not only still around after the Big Bad and Thor are duking it out after the landfall of a giant alien ship but are all rushing to the windows to get their cell phones out. One even asks her if she's kidding about leaving, since Thor's right there.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In Dog with a Blog, Tyler attempts to post a photo to "Buddy Bop" when he realizes he only has 2% phone power. Meanwhile, the girls are trying to find a way to get Stan back in the house. Avery remarks, "You're wasting precious time here!"
  • Austin & Ally: Austin tweets about "Suzy's Soups" going out of business while they're trying to save the restaurant.
  • Downplayed in The Big Bang Theory: Penny is upset with herself for having sex with Raj and hides out at Amy's apartment. Raj comes over to talk to her and reveals that the sex never happened; they were both too drunk and passed out after he came prematurely as she was helping him put on his condom.
    Penny: How did you know I was here?
    Raj: It's all over her Facebook page.
  • Naturally comes up a lot in Black Mirror, given the themes and premise of the show. Highlighted in the trailer for series 2, which showed (among similar images) a crowd filming on their phones whilst a homeless man is murdered in front of them; and dozens of people holding up their phones as a huge, ominous dark cloud comes along to swallow them up.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The Eleventh Hour", the people of England watch the Sun beginning to explode and instead of running for some sort of probably-fruitless cover, they begin to film and tweet about it. The Doctor comments on this.
    • If you weren't scared of social networks enough, "The Bells of Saint John" shows that there's a mastermind using all your updates to the Internet to track people, events, and the ridiculous situations you should really deal with before taking a selfie. The selfies help them steal identities. (Funnily enough, though, the bad guys make this same mistake: their social media accounts all mention where they work, which is how the Doctor tracks them down, with some help from Clara.)
  • One episode of Kanpai Senshi After V was based around Treasure V facing huge public backlash after Blue Tweeted a picture of an enemy mook attacking a child, rather than actually stepping in to help the victim.
  • NCIS: A carload of teens has just collided with a dying Naval officer and they pile out of the car to check on him. One of the teens is clearly addicted to social media.
    "Get off Facebook and dial 911!"
  • World's Dumbest...:
    • Played With in pretty much every way, typically in one of two scenarios—either someone will film a disaster and its aftermath instead of doing something to help, prompting the commentators to jokingly Lampshade the importance of continuing to film the events; or someone will stop filming and go to help, prompting the commentators to complain (and, in some cases, re-enact the probable aftermath themselves).
    • Another form of this occurs when someone films something embarrassing and decides to erase the tape—which apparently means "send it to TruTV so Danny Bonaduce can make fun of it."
  • Played for laughs in Scream Queens. Chanel #2 is alone in a room with the series' Serial Killer, and chooses to tweet about it instead of calling for help. She's promptly murdered right after.

    Music 
  • Freak Kitchen's song "Freak of the Week" is about exactly this. Just check out the lyrics:
    I'm the new black / I'm opium to thee / Will do anything / For popularity
    Mutilate myself / Become an amputee / Like me, like me, won't you like me?

    Video Games 
  • Watch_Dogs:
    • One of the random conversations in has someone lamenting that onlookers were more concerned about snapping photos and videos of an accident than helping.
    • The trope is averted in normal gameplay; NPCs will stop to photograph unusual events (e.g. the infamous vigilante Aidan Pierce) but run or call the cops if things get too dangerous (e.g. the infamous vigilante Aidan Pierce blows up part of the road).
  • The fickleness of social media in general plays a huge role in Persona 5, particularly regarding the forum that the Phantom Thieves use to collect intel on their targets. The media flip-flops between laying it on thick/abusing the thieves' services, and turning on them and labeling them pariahs. This gets especially troubling for the thieves when the head of The Conspiracy they've been fighting against confesses to his crimes; his lackeys slander the thieves on social media sites and the people of Tokyo eat it up, no questions asked, despite the fact that Shido and his party had absolutely no interest in Japan's welfare. It comes to a head during the Very Definitely Final Dungeon, where you learn that all of Tokyo embodies the sin of Sloth and serve as the masters of the aforementioned dungeon along with the Final Boss. It also doubles as commentary: the people of Tokyo would rather be told what to do than divert from the expectations laid out before them, and one symptom includes taking things at face value.
  • Let It Die features Colonel Jackson, whose fetish involved taking selfies in the blast radius of the bombs he made himself, sometimes with his partner/lover Johnny. It ended about as well as you'd expect, with Johnny getting blown in half. The subsequent grief-driven rampage is what leads Jackson to get decapitated and become the second Don of the Tower of Barbs.
  • Tekken Tag Tournament 2 and Mortal Kombat X both involve fighters who think that the middle of a martial arts match is the perfect time to take a selfie with the opponent. In the latter case, it's part of a Fatality.
  • Rabbid Peach in Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle has an obsession with selfies as a character quirk. She even takes them when her personal safety is being compromised, like when she was being grabbed and slammed by a Piranha Plant.

    Web Comics 
  • xkcd comic Seismic Waves satirizes people who tweet obsessively by depicting them retweeting warnings about earthquakes rather than taking precautions.
    • Became truth in 2011 Virginia Earthquake, where people in Boston and New York City reported reading Twitter messages from people in Baltimore, DC, and Richmond reacting to the earthquake 15-30 seconds before feeling the tremors themselves. This was largely due to the geology of the east coast, which is not prone to big earthquakes, resulting in older rock that transfers the energy further, but slower, than areas that are much more prone to Earthquakes.

    Web Video 

    Western Animation 
  • Ronaldo of Steven Universe puts social media before his own safety — when being pummeled by a gang of sentient watermelons he didn't care about the injuries he was receiving so long as he got it on video for a livestream. According to his Character Blog, it didn't even work.
    NOOOOOOO! I FORGOT TO INCLUDE A LINK TO THE LIVESTREAM!!! DID ANYONE SCREEN CAP WHAT HAPPENED?!! THAT WAS SO WEIRD!! AND I MIGHT HAVE A BROKEN RIB!!!
    • In "Gem Hunt" Steven takes his promise to take photos of his friend Connie's first mission for her parents a little too seriously. For instance, taking a photo of the hostile super soldier who's currently taunting him with the Gem she just ripped out of giant monster.
  • Danger Mouse:
    • In "The World Wide Spider", the monster-of-the-week's rampage keeps crossing paths with a tour group that's always standing in front of whichever landmark it's about to attack. The group includes one particular tourist who always stays put long enough to take a selfie of himself with the monster in the background.
    • When Penfold gets addicted to his new phone, he starts posting vast quantities of selfies to social media, even while on secret missions. Baron Greenback uses these post to track the duo and thwart DM's every move. DM is eventually to use Penfold's addiction to halt the Baron's scheme.
  • Kaeloo: In one episode where the main four get stranded on an island full of canibals, Pretty decides to take pictures of herself crying over them getting stuck and post them on social media site Fakebook. Her sister then points out that she could go rescue them instead.
  • In Bojack Horseman, this is what kills Herb Kazzaz, after his cancer goes into remission. He spends the drive home tweeting how he'll live forever, only to collide with a peanut truck, which causes his death by allergic reaction.
  • Gravity Falls: We don't see it happen, but Wendy says this was the fate of Robbie. He would have gotten away from Bill's initial wave of weird, but he stopped to take a selfie.

    Real Life 
  • In one incident that occurred in December 2013, a woman decided that, rather than do something helpful or respectful in regard to a would-be jumper on the Brooklyn Bridge, she would take a selfie as police talked the jumper down in the background.
  • Vicky Xipolitakis, an Argentine diva, took a flight and was invited by the pilots to the cockpit. She joked with them during the takeoff sequence, was even allowed to press the throttle... and filmed everything, and uploaded her video of her antics to Twitter. As you may suspect, the two pilots were fired immediately, and the three of them (the pilots and Xipolitakis) faced legal action for their dangerous stunt.
  • This seems to become a trend in Russia, to the point where the government felt it necessary to start a "Safe Selfie" campaign. Read, for example, here. Ranging from shooting oneself in the head during selfie to '''holding a live, un-pinned hand grenade!'''
  • Anyone who has ever tried to take a selfie while driving - and wound up getting into an accident.
  • Geraldo Rivera did this during the second Iraq war. He specifically filmed himself highlighting detailed troop locations, numbers and movement prior to combat operations, and broadcast it well in advance of the actual events. He did this knowing full well the fate of Daniel Pearle, and numerous civilian contractors who were set on fire, alive, and hung from bridges by the enemy Iraqi soldiers and their Al Qaeda sympathizers. He was, and still is, shocked that the allied army and the viewing public, in general hate him, and to a lesser extent, his network, for doing this.

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