Something bad happened in the state of Texas as things do every moment of every day in some part of the world. And it may have happened because the people involved made poor decisions, had a mental imbalance, or were quite simply “bad” people. I was drawn to the story in part because the article said “Texas” and because one of the news sites I frequently visit leans heavily towards the salacious and sensational. When I step out of my car I am cut off from NPR and left in the hands of online journalists. And in truth, maybe I read it because those stories make me feel a small bit better about myself.
In the beginning, I noticed there really wasn’t much to it – a handful of facts strung into a story about a couple who came together and did something horrific that they will never be able to take back. No one knew why, and the story could have ended in a few sentences. The journalists had done their duty and answered their who, what, when, where and why, but no good story could end in one paragraph. No reasonable journalist would end it there, and so where the story lacked meat, an overdose of fluff was inserted to ensure we readers had to scroll past half a dozen advertisements for home loans and weight loss miracles before we could move on to the next bad thing that happened somewhere else.
In the middle of the story a whole paragraph was devoted to the following line: “…and the couple met playing the online game, World of Warcraft”. You could hear the investigative journalist’s “gotcha” after they revealed the big “ah hah” to the reader. Online games – the journalist’s new Dungeons and Dragons – the why to all anti-social, psychotic, sociopathic behavior – the internet’s boogey man.
I’m here to tell you that of all the possible “whys”, I am almost certain the “how” of how they met played only a small part into the “why” of what they did.
I’ve met people online and trust me when I say that upon that meeting we didn’t Mickey & Mallory it across the country. Nothing snapped inside of me where I lost site of my moral compass. And to the best of my knowledge, the people I’ve known who have met their spouses online don’t kick puppies, litter, swear at the elderly or sit around poking holes in the ozone layer simply because it’s a slow day and it feels like the right thing to do (and they definitely don’t stick toddlers in a plastic bin and float them in Galveston Bay). It’s just another way of meeting people – it’s neither inherently good or bad, nor is it inherently safe or dangerous – it quite simply “is”. You can meet both good people and bad people, likeable and distasteful just like you can walking down the street.
And I’ll say again, something bad happened in the state of Texas, but it had nothing to do with how the people met and everything to do with who the people are.