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Social Media Before Reason

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"The end comes, as it was always going to, down a video phone!"

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's 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 that 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; 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; and Endangering News Broadcast, which is usually more dangerous to the subject than to the filmer. Compare also Related to New Media Are Evil and Everything Is Online. Sub-trope of Skewed Priorities and Social Media Is Bad.



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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 before the advent of social media, but the attitude is still there, with people using their phones to take pictures rather than calling emergency services with then.
  • In the 2018 version of GeGeGe no Kitarō, a young man decides to run around in Shibuya traffic and disturb the locals so he can get views on Youtube for it. He turns into a red-leaved tree not long after. Why was he transformed? His previous video showed him tearing off a talisman and breaking the rock it was attached to in the same careless style, unwittingly releasing the youkai inside. And then bystanders take picture of the aforementioned tree, in which some of who took pictures of the tree turn into the tree, causing Shibuya to turn into a red forest.
  • 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, 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 G.I. Joe (IDW) series, the Joes were assigned an 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.
  • 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.
  • Kid Loki from Journey into Mystery knows he needs to escape through a portal fast after he's summoned Surtur - but he can't resist snapping a picture of the rampaging, now freed fire giant first. (Probably for the skeptical followers of his Instagram, which we've seen earlier in the series.)
  • The Transformers: 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 
  • 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.
    • Cannibal Holocaust, a candidate for the first found-footage film ever made, deconstructed this in a different manner. Here, the protagonists are a bunch of murderous scumbags who film their atrocities out of a sick sense of sadism, the fact that they have cameras at all implied to be a major driving force behind their crossing the Moral Event Horizon.
    • 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 as a conventional horror movie, unlike the opening (and the first two films).
    • 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 Anna and the Apocalypse, the characters find out that a significant chunk of the population has this offscreen in regards to the Zombie Apocalypse going on, causing one of them to snark that we deserve to go extinct.
  • 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.
  • Made-for-TV Movie, A Fairly Odd Summer, the third and final of The Fairly Oddparents live-action movies, has a wealthy family about to go out on a vacation. However, the parents are overly obsessed with their social status online. As soon as someone makes a negative comment about them on a social page, they quickly bail on their vacation and just send the kids off by themselves... with Vicky.
  • 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 Ted 2, this is Ted's reaction when he sees John covered in semen.
    Ted: Hang on — I'm gonna post this on Facebook!
    John: NOOOOO!
    Ted: (typing) #GrrrMondays.
  • 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.
  • Wish Upon: If one of your best friends has just developed necrotizing fasciitis (a.k.a. 'flesh eating disease') and is freaking out, then now is probably not the time to snap a photo of her and post it on the web.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • Black Mirror:
    • Naturally comes up a lot, 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.
    • Perhaps best on display in Black Mirror: The Waldo Moment. A cartoon bear named Waldo runs in a by-election in England as a joke candidate, receiving criticism from competing traditional political candidates (who believe he makes a mockery of the democratic process) but also massive appeal from the voting public. Waldo ends up coming second behind the stuffy, humourless Jerkass Conservative candidate, but ultimately he turns out to be the last politician to win a British by-election: the Waldo movement not long after takes over Britain and turns it into a barking mad, populist Police State and worse, seems to be spreading across the world too.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "The Eleventh Hour", the people of England watch the Sun mysteriously dimming over, 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.)
    • At the top of "Death in Heaven" people are gawking at the Cybermen who have just emerged from St. Paul's Cathedral in the previous episode's Cliffhanger; their mastermind Missy offers them photos with the cyborgs for a pound, and even crows to the Doctor "We're trending!" as some people take them up on the offer. But they turn out to be a subversion: they're actually military personnel from UNIT come to ambush and apprehend both Missy and the Cybermen (and to take the Doctor with them to boot).
  • 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!"
  • 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!"
  • Played for laughs in Scream Queens (2015). 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.
  • 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."

  • 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?

  • In Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues, Benjy's first instinct when things start getting freaky in the locked school is to take a video recording of the strange events, even when the Fog of Doom forms into a snake and impales a student right in front of him.

    Video Games 
  • In Chapter 5 of Celeste, Theo goes into a mysterious temple to get cool pictures for his InstaPix followers. This ends badly. In his defense, he had no way of knowing beforehand that the temple was some freaky Eldritch Location.
  • In Hifuu Nightmare Diary ~ Violet Detector, Sumireko is trapped within a dream where everyone attacks her with danmaku. Frustrated with the looping nightmares, she decides she better makes use of it and starts taking pictures within the dreams and posting them on social media to gain followers. Thanks to her unique circumstances with dreams, the photos carry over to the real world somehow.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • One of D.Va's highlight intros in Overwatch is her ejecting from her mech after hitting the self destruct, only to stop and take a selfie of herself flashing a V-Sign with her Meka exploding in the background. Somewhat Justified since, in-game, she's immune to the self-destruct itself.
  • 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.
  • Levi from Starlink: Battle for Atlas has a rep amongst his crew for taking and posting selfies of himself everywhere, and snuck onboard the Equinox in the name of boosting his follower count, as noted in one of Victor St. Grand's crew files.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • We Become What We Behold has you accepting orders from an unknown source where you have to photograph "something interesting". It later escalates to prejudice, violence, and full-blown massacre.

  • 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 Original 

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Part 2 of the DC Super Hero Girls episode "Nevermore" has a teenager taking selfies in the middle of some destruction Raven accidentally caused. Batgirl is understandably annoyed when rescuing her.
  • Mark Beaks of DuckTales (2017) is featured in an episode wherein he is constantly threatened by a hired thief named Falcon Graves. Falcon was hired to steal "Project Tadah", The company's upcoming product. Despite this, all Mark cares about is taking photos of himself with Falcon and updating his current status on social media. Falcon promptly destroys Mark's phone, but he keeps pulling out replacements and documenting every moment on social media. At first, one might think this is subverted given that Mark himself hired Graves in order to steal the nonexistent project so he could keep the money the investors gave him. But upon seeing his last phone tossed off the roof of the company, Mark dives down after it, catches it, takes a selfie and Types "YOLO" before hitting a trampoline he did not know would be there.
  • 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.
  • Kaeloo: In one episode where the main four get stranded on an island full of cannibals, 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.
  • Miraculous Ladybug: When there's an Akuma attack, there is amateur Intrepid Reporter Alya Cesaire trying to capture Livestream footage for her Ladyblog, even if the Akumatized villain is a Person of Mass Destruction and it would be smarter to run like hell.
  • Steven Universe:

    Real Life 


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