The Internet, like your dentist’s assistant, is never kinder than when disaster strikes. On normal days, the kind on which you glide across an afternoon on too much coffee and a midweek buzz of anomie, you might not notice the deep and pervasive treacle of online life.
But when a tsunami hits Japan, an earthquake crushes Haiti, or an embassy attack leaves foreign servicemen dead, even the most calloused tweeter goes soft inside, and every laptop turns into a small news service all its own. Sorrow pours down from the loftiest peaks. Help shines through each browser window. At such moments, the web becomes a nurturing and shining place, and every stiff-jawed critic seems to want to send you forward with hugs and a smile.
Ten years ago, the web offered the worldview of a disaffected apparatchik and the perils of a Wild West saloon
On October 29, as Hurricane Sandy swept into New York and New Jersey, the web became a news ticker and sound box amplifying public concern. With few people venturing outside and many rubbernecking on reports and footage of the worst, those who broke news became de facto moderators of our anxieties. First came the photographs: the waters of New York Harbor rising up into Battery Park, a lovely Instagram-ized shot of the Hudson breaching its banks.