Can Social Media Be Deadly?

Recently, San Francisco commuters were so engrossed in technology that they missed a man brandishing a handgun, then shooting a passenger in the head, writes the Miami Herald's Leonard Pitts Jr. It's a cruel reminder of how we focus on screens instead of what's in front of us.

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The Miami Herald's Leonard Pitts Jr. checks in our growing tendency to focus on our screens instead of at what's in front of us. The observation comes after the recent incident when San Francisco commuters were so engrossed in technology that they missed a man brandishing a handgun then shooting a passenger in the head.

The thing might be funny, except that somebody died. That part isn't funny at all. But the rest of it, the moments before Justin Valdez was killed, read like some twisted skit on Saturday Night Live.

You have to get the picture as captured on surveillance video and described by authorities in a story published last week by the San Francisco Chronicle. You have to see the suspect, 30-year-old Nikhom Thephakaysone, sitting on the light-rail train, pulling out his .45 caliber pistol, pointing it across the aisle, putting it back, pulling it out several times again, and at one point wiping his nose with the hand holding the gun — and nobody notices because they're too busy staring down at their smart phones and tablet computers. We're talking about a train crowded with commuters and this guy is waving a gun around but nobody sees him, so engrossed are they in texting, tweeting and playing Angry Birds.

Finally, according to police, Thephakaysone shot Valdez in the back of the head as the 20-year-old college student was exiting the train. That got people's attention. Indeed, the apparently random Sept. 23rd tragedy has rocked the Bay Area. It ought to rock the whole country.

In the murder of Justin Valdez and the bizarre scenario leading up to it, we find fresh, albeit bloody, evidence of how social media and high technology have changed us. These devices and new platforms of communication were supposed to allow us to be better-connected to one another. Take this murder as Exhibit A for the argument that they actually do the opposite.

Read Leonard Pitts Jr.'s entire piece at the Miami Herald.

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