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October 30, 2012 at 2:07 PM

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Hurricane Sandy jokes on social media not funny

Editor's note: University of Washington student Sandi Halimuddin is interning for the opinion section this quarter and contributing to our opinion blog Ed Cetera.

As superstorm Sandy, which swept through the Caribbean last week and drifted towards the East Coast triggering evacuations, loss of power and transportation disruptions in New York, the storm has crept from our periphery into the center of conversation.

Although Sandy was downgraded from hurricane status to hybrid storm classification due to weaker peak winds, it is one of the largest storms to affect the U.S. with tropical storm-force winds spanning a diameter of 943 miles, according to The Weather Channel.

There are two competing discourses swirling around Hurricane Sandy in social media.

The first is one of humor and lightness, mainly streaming on my Twitter feed.

The other one, presented in the news, is a sobering portrait of Sandy's reality which has led to the destruction and damage of property and infrastructure, displacement of families and a staggering death toll of 69 people in the Caribbean and 39 people in the U.S., according to the Associated Press. Yet the superstorm has been portrayed by many Americans as nothing more than a pseudo-apocalyptic collective experience, as evidenced on Twitter.

All the witty jokes surfacing in social media seem out of place when storm-related death tolls and losses are taken into account. For me, it’s hard to find anything funny about this hurricane, which has the potential to affect 60 million people, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Saturday.

How did our society get so disconnected from the reality of disaster to the point of insensitivity and complacency with Hurricane Sandy?

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