On April 20, a huge earthquake once again raged through the Sichuan province of China causing hundreds of deaths and many injuries. This is the second serious earthquake since the one in 2008, which shocked the world with horrible destruction scenes.
Since I don’t have a television here, my main source of information ranged from news websites to social media. In fact, the first news I got came from a friend’s post on Facebook. One thing worth noting is that although I still felt sad for the Chinese people who suffered from the disaster, the feeling was more detached than how I perceived the 2008 earthquake.
I started wondering: was it because this one was comparatively a minor earthquake than the last one or was it because media in the UK didn’t make such a huge coverage as the Taiwanese media would do?
I believe media coverage contributes a lot to how we react and perceive events.
With sound and video, shock is more direct and emotions become contagious. Taiwanese broadcast media would play live scenes over and over again with reporters telling in dramatic voices how horrible the earthquake was or how hard the living conditions were for the Chinese refugees. However, when it is on social media, it was just a small word description and even if they had pictures and videos attached, people can simply choose not to click those ones and keep on scrolling to the next funny picture or to another personal emotional feeling.
Another reason for these emotional detachment is that the UK media cover these news in a more rational way and rather distant attitude. Unlike the media in Taiwan, which present news stories in a soap-opera way, British media just cuts in with an objective angle, telling people how large the damaged area was.
I can’t tell if this is good or bad because when I asked my fellow Chinese classmates, they also told me they felt less involved than last time when they were in their home country. Perhaps, we were not in that atmosphere, therefore the media influenced us less. However, this doesn’t mean we have become indifferent.
Some might say that it is a shame that the western media focus more on some deaths than others. Of course I don’t agree with this phenomenon at all, but its inevitable since geographical and political factors have always influenced media coverage.
Distance might reduce the shock but the compassion for humanity will never change. At the heart’s core, every life has the same value and we wish that those who died in the earthquake rest in piece.