By Loay Leon Hady
Tragedy. Forget the Bee Gees cheese for a moment and reflect instead on the deaths over the last few days. Nearly a hundred in Oslo, the majority of whom were teenagers, lured to their deaths by a man dressed in police uniform unleashing indiscriminate rounds, and less than 24 hours later, the death of a young musician heralded as one of the finest of her generation, who was known to have a tumultuous, ongoing battle with various addictive substances, but whose death is as yet ‘unexplained’.
One is ‘senselessly tragic’ and the other ‘terribly sad’. Or one is ‘inhumane’ and ‘unbelievable’, while the other is a ‘shame’ but ‘expected’.
The above quotations were picked up from the Twitter and Facebook sphere, but regardless of such opinions, what loomed over them was the often vitriolic outrage shown when a update was deemed to hoist the latter over the prior.
The world didn’t go ‘mad’, as some noted– it just lost perspective.
How can we judge someone for posting a comment on one tragedy or the other when the limited update space sometimes allows the mention of only one at a time? Why did so many presume that the one that was mentioned somehow excluded or took precedent over the other? Indeed a quick twitter-stalk on some people’s last few tweets demonstrated that those who commented on Amy’s death (Saturday evening) had, the day before, commented on the killings in Norway.
Then comes the issue of personal connection; to some, Amy was well-known, well-loved and touched people’s lives. Why could a person not express their sadness at that loss, over a terrible heartless atrocity that is far less personal?
Where is the rule that one tragedy, in the immediate aftermath of hearing about it, has to hit home harder than the other and supersede it? It’s a time of emotional upheaval in many ways- and the crux of this may be that we don’t know how to be emotional over the internet yet.
Imagine if you were hearing both sets of news on a weekend away with friends, you’d never consider comparing them in such a way. You’d both be shocked at one piece of news then continue the discussion over the second. In such a scenario the conversation would be one of unprecedented horror over the events in Oslo, and then of another sad loss that which reflected the deaths of so many others who have died in a similarly tragic way. Both can exist at the same time. Just maybe not in 140 characters.
To put this another way, would you ever compare Heath Ledger’s death to the Tsunami, or Maddie’s’ disappearance to the Rwandan genocide? Of course not. They are all bad news of various degrees. Yesterday a lot of people seemed to forget that perspective, and we don’t communicate that way in the non-virtual world.
Moreover, once something is said, it can be forgotten, but once typed, it can live on. We forget that too.
The most interesting thing about this point is that we’re the first generation that gets to leave shards of ourselves and our opinions lying around for others to see in such a way- we’re the ones who’ll shape the etiquette of such discussion in the future. That’s worth remembering because it will happen again.
For me, the strangest development was the way people brought in other news items that they felt should be getting attention: deaths of others, humanitarian situations and the financial talks in America that fell apart. All massively serious, and some did involve the common threat of death, but they were presented most times as: ‘this is what YOU SHOULD be tweeting about!’
Do we walk around telling each other what to think? Do we not ask people for their opinions on a range of topics before offering our opinion on them? In the trillions of conversations we have with people, are we that quick to judge? No, of course not– we just aren’t used to discussing such things in cyberspace yet.
Surely the development of online morals and etiquette has to mirror that of the offline ones, or do those parts of us go offline when we go online?
I guess if I had to tweet my thoughts rather than this ramble, I would have simply put, ‘remember– out of sight doesn’t mean out of mind.’
Many still pray for Kurt Cobain, for Elvis, for Chernobyl victims etc and not one of us has the right to tell the other who to grieve for. We already know this. We just forgot online… this time.
Loay Leon Hady is an Advanced Skills Teacher of English and a Head of Department for Psychology. He has an M.A in English and is currently completing an M.Ed in Education. His most recent project is a rendition of the Quran into an English poem.
Reclaim Your Stage:
The Platform is a groundbreaking blog that provides current affairs and cultural commentary. Our pieces offer challenging opinions from a range of spectrums; that’s why we love hosting a platform for them.