On Thursday, Christa Brelsford's story was covered on CNN around 4:30 PM EST, so what did I do? I turned to Twitter and Facebook to see if I can find a link to Christa.
Why? I wanted to connect.
It's what we do. When we find somebody with shared experiences, we want to reach out. This is true for all of humanity. It's what connects groups of people. We want to be able to talk with the people with whom we share stories. Social media provides us the ability to unite in a new and unprecedented capacity. The rules of new media continue to be written.
Christa Brelsford is a hero! A student living in Haiti, she lost the bottom portion of her right leg during the horrific earthquake in the country. The world watches on CNN and MSNBC, and then turns to Twitter for immediate updates on the disaster. We are now turning to Facebook to connect with those family members possibly lost in Haiti. Our media world has become increasingly and explosively interactive. As people with disabilities, we have realized how quickly the computer levels the playing field. The rest of the world is catching on to the beauty of an interactive computer society.
As an amputee, I want to reach out to Christa. She will need a community to turn to in overcoming this new obstacle. In the amputee world, there are many role models out there. There are people with shared experiences connecting every day on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. There is a healing going on among amputees on the Internet. We are able to share stories thousands of miles apart.
Soldiers returning back for more, individuals born with deformities and those suffering from debilitating diseases can all share in stories of amputation. We can share how we interact with the world around us as well as how society should react to our differences.
Twenty years ago, if you suffered from this rare occurrence of amputation, more than likely you would be going to the VA Hospital to find people with similarities. As a child growing up with congenital limb loss, I only wish I had YouTube to find videos of how other people ambulated or dressed. If you are a person with a disability, you tend to be more private about your differences. You are limited in whom you can relate, it's much harder to find those relations in your community.
When you meet people with disabilities now, the older generations are much more reserved in sharing stories. If you are under 40, the computer has taught you to be more forthcoming and you share a little more. If you are under 20, you've grown up with social media and you share a new level of openness. People with disabilities are on a level playing field at a young age and being able to connect. All of society connects to the computer now, you don't have to walk up to a bar to meet people or walk into a hairdresser to connect with individuals.
Social media may be lessening individual's ability to connect in person, but it is certainly enhancing people with disabilities communal skills.
Today, if you type amputation into YouTube you come up with hundreds of videos. If you type amputee into Twitter you come up with many people you can follow instantly. There are literally hundreds of like-minded individuals at my fingertips (if I had fingers). I can connect with people privately about very difficult topics through my computer, web cam and microphone.
As I watch the outreach going pushing through social media during this tragedy, I am struck with how important it has become in our society. In my own world, I know those new people with disabilities will inherently look to social media to answer the new questions they face about life. Disabled or not, we all share that experience now.