(CNN) —So is this the "new normal"? That's the question I keep hearing as people try to comprehend the tragedy at the Boston Marathon and its chaotic aftermath. The answer is yes—in more ways than you might think.
I don't mean that we're supposed to get used to explosions, school shootings and other threats arising seemingly randomly and without warning. But we should accept that the old ways of understanding and responding to conflicts and threats no longer apply.
In an always-on, post-narrative age, 24-hour cable and Internet news and Twitter feeds offer a steady stream of opportunities for panic and misinformation. We have a suspect; no, we don't; yes, we do. The school is on lockdown; no, it's not. False alarms are still alarms, after all. It's like we are all living in newsrooms, or as 911 operators or air-traffic controllers, for all the emergency interruptions and bulletins we navigate practically every hour.
Then consider the equally unnerving limbo we endure once there's nothing new to report. The stakes are too high to return to regular programming, so we just sit there, poised on high alert along with the police and journalists. This time, it was flashing blue lights and the search for a suspect. Before that, it was the live feed of Deepwater Horizon in the corner of the screen for weeks, belching oil into the sea. Whether interruptive or chronic, the anxiety keeps pouring in.