By Christine Suhan
If you haven’t yet seen this video, I suggest you brace yourself for the flood of emotions that will saturate you if you feel you have to watch it. It is gut-wrenching in so many ways but what I found to be the most heart-breaking and shocking reality of it all, is that a man stood there and watched this horrific scene unfold in front of him and took video of it instead of rushing to comfort the screaming child. I have never witnessed such raw vulnerability from a child and although I can’t know exactly how I will react in a situation I have never experienced, I can guarantee my knee jerk reaction in this scenario would have been to help the child instead of grabbing my phone and exposing the most devastating and traumatic moment of her life on social media.
Our culture needs a serious re-boot, pronto. Since when did getting likes and shares on Facebook replace moral standards? I was taught as a young child to love my neighbor as myself, to be kind and helpful to others in need. When I was growing up, cell phones and social media didn’t even exist. I know, shocking right? And the most outrageous part of this is I’m only 32 years old. It wasn’t all that long ago that our culture was held together with threads of dignity and good faith instead of shock factor and exploitation.
We all know drugs are bad. We know that addiction destroys families. Most of us know this because we, ourselves, have battled addiction or we’ve known friends and/or family members who have. The drug epidemic is a problem in our country. WE KNOW THIS ALREADY. But it seems so many of us are unaware of the underlying issues that perpetuate addiction. They are, in essence, the same underlying issues that warrant such disturbing behavior on social media as exposing a vulnerable child in time of need.
So let’s stop focusing on the isolated incidences such as these and start looking at the big picture. Let’s step away from shock factor and pointing the finger and start turning inward, start looking at ourselves. Because the truth is, people who are addicted to drugs or porn or food or social media, all struggle with the same need: to be seen, heard and understood. Some people fill this need in healthy ways, like real life relationships with people and with God. Others, fill the need with whatever resources they have available to them at the time.
People don’t become addicts because they just wake up one day and decide that they want to destroy their lives. They turn to drugs because they don’t know how to cope with emotional pain. They were never taught to process emotions in a healthy way. They feel a void inside of them and drugs give them an illusion of filling the void. When they take their first drink or their first hit, they don’t plan on becoming addicts, they are just trying to fit in with their peers or trying to escape a reality that is painful.
No one intends on becoming a neglectful parent or endangering their child when they start using. Just like no one intends on becoming the a-hole who just stands there and watches as a child screams for her dying mother. But the reality is that so many of us end up becoming these people we never dreamed we’d be because our culture is saturated in messages of instant gratification. Our culture begs us to sacrifice ourselves and our moral standards for whatever feels good at the time. The only difference between the addict who overdoses in front of her child and the man who stands there with a video camera is what our culture deems as socially acceptable. Both of these adults are harming the child, but in very different ways. The man exploiting the vulnerability of this poor child on social media is not responsible for her well-being but now he’s played a part in destroying the trajectory of her emotional security.
Let’s stop talking about the drug epidemic and start doing something different. Scare tactics are being passed off in school as drug education but clearly they aren’t working. How about we start focusing on treating the underlying issues of addiction instead. Since addiction to anything has the same root, a desperate need to change how we feel, how about requiring schools to pay more attention to mental health and teaching coping skills so children have a chance of becoming healthy adults? How about teaching children and adults to validate themselves so they stop searching for approval from others?
Our culture is just perpetuating the problem instead of working to fix it. My hope is that we work together to restore a society held together by kindness, service and love. That we remember God’s commandment to love our neighbor as our self. And that we pray for this innocent child whose life was just destroyed by addiction as well as social media exploitation.
About the Author: Christine Suhan is a wife, stay at home mother to three wild toddler boys and writer/creator at www.feelingsandfaith.net. She has a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy and enjoys helping people through openly and honestly sharing her journey of life, recovery, mental illness, marriage, parenting and more. You can also find her on her Facebook page.