Tuesday, 26 July 2011

What (else) I learned on my Holidays

In my previous blog, I shared some insights gained on my holiday with @MandyRG in Northumberland.  I usually make a point whilst on holidays of distancing myself from the normal daily news ‘noise’, but two almost coincidental events at the end of that week were unavoidable - the world was horrified to learn of the killings in Norway and shocked at the untimely death of singer Amy Winehouse.  So on Saturday evening, I logged into Twitter.

In my timeline, I read lot of tweets and comment along the lines of “RIP Amy Winehouse” and what a sad waste of a young talent.  Several people used the words ‘tragic’ and ‘tragedy’.  I took a different view and kinda got on my high horse; I re-tweeted and responded to one particular tweet with the comment “A Tragedy? Really? Tell that to the Norwegians”.  I got an instant and angry response suggesting that I should get a grip and that I had no more right to pronounce on the scale of tragedy than the author had.  This then stimulated a short tweetstorm amongst half a dozen of my followers around whether or not comparisons were valid (differing views) and I expressed the opinion that we tend to overuse the words ‘tragic’ and ‘tragedy’ nowadays, and that there was a big difference between Amy W’s sad death and the horror of the mass shooting of teenagers. However, having been ‘bitten back’, I was careful to make my comments general and not aimed at, nor in response to, anyone else’s specific tweets.

For an hour or so thereafter, I sat back and monitored my timeline.  I picked up a recurring theme in the tweets and retweets, that people generally thought it was NOT OK to compare the two situations and moreover, that there was a real affection for and sadness at the loss of Amy W, which was different to the genuine distress felt over the Norwegian atrocities.  What surprised me was the depth and passion of some of those feelings and the implications that if one thought otherwise, as one tweet put it, “you are idiots!”  I began to feel a little beleaguered and paranoid but, as it was the last night of our holiday, thought it wisest to keep my counsel and step back.

The next day we traveled back to Brighton and during the 7 hour car journey, I mulled over what had occurred the evening before.  I reflected on my own opinion about the difference of the two ‘news’ events and definitions of ‘tragedy’; I reflected on the different views expressed by others within and outwith my immediate Personal Learning Network, some more mature and measured than others; I reflected on how I had been exposed to, and felt impelled to comment on, events and views outside of my usual Twitter L&D/SoMe themes, really for the first time; and finally, I reflected on how valuable Twitter and my PLN had been in making me  think more deeply about these things.  I was concerned about how I had ‘shown up’ and whether or not I had upset and/or alienated any of my followers, but equally, whether any of them harboured similar doubts or concerns themselves.

So yesterday, I tweeted to everyone who had been involved in Saturday evening’s conversations and thanked them for making me think more deeply about these things.  Within a very short space of time, I heard back from several of those same people, acknowledging the pitfalls of ‘firing from the hip’ but also recognizing the value of sharing thoughts and opinions in Twitter, and reflecting more deeply thereon. I will be mindful of these themes in the future.

I feel that I now have a more personal relationship with those same people, beyond the immediate 140 character ‘sound bite’ that Twitter can sometimes become;  I hope I have shown up as authentic and that our future dialogue will continue to enrich and add value to my and their ongoing professional and personal development. I hope that they feel the same.

I’d be really interested to know what thoughts and feelings last week’s events and social media commentaries brought up for you.


  1. I was actually taken aback that my twitter (and facebook) stream didn't really pick up on the Norway tradgedy, except for a few people, a couple of whom had friends in Norway, but went wild later in the day with the news of Amy Winehouse.

    I didn't enter into any dialogue with anyone purely because when the news of Amy Winehouse's death came through we were tucked in front of the fire for a family evening. Probably just as well. I saw your tweet about tragedy and agree with you. Having read your post I'm taking a step back and re-thinking... thanks for this.

  2. As someone who used the word tragedy andwho re-tweeted a post that contained the words 'You are idiots' I have reflected on the comments on Twitter as well as your very thoughtful post. I have come to the following conclusion : events are deemed tragic not by the definition in a dictionary but by the person who views the event and the emotion the word triggers in that individual. Both events were tragic in my opinion for very different reasons and personally I don't feel that anyone should be comparing them. You wouldn't compare 7/7 with 9/11 in the sense of being any less 'tragic' just because less people died and that is how it felt to me that the events were compared based on the amount of life lost.

    Perhaps people felt more inclined to comment on the passing of Amy Winehouse because they felt a connection because of the battle with drugs or through her music or because they had followed her career highs and subsequent lows - and even the amount of press she rec'd. Whilst the events in Norway were horrific there was less of a personal connection so ppl felt less inclined to comment. I don't know.

    What I do know is that like you I've have reflected and thought more deeply about a subject. I still believe that words and the emotions they trigger are personal to each individual and therefore shouldn't be explained or justified by definition alone.

  3. Very interesting post.

    I was struck throughout the press coverage from Norway, that when they interviewed anyone Norweigan how they just stuck to the facts - no hyperbole at all.

    How different to our reporting overhere, when journalists feel the need to use melodramatic language for the smallest incident.

    Your points about stepping back were well made. Here's my perspective on the situation.

    I didn't tweet about the situation in Norway, although I cried at the news, I thought about doing tweeting, but it all seemed so bleak, what could I say that would add anything meaningful to the situation?

    And the difference with Amy Winehouse, well she was an individual we felt we knew, from her name, we recognised her face, to her voice, to her well documented behaviour. She was real to us, in a way that the numbers in Norway weren't. Someone we recognised versus numbers too large to really comprehend.

    I suspect as with life, you'll get out of twitter what you put into it. As with any tool, twitter will stop us in our tracks and cause us to think, if we have the ability to stop and see things from another perspective. Otherwise.... it's just noise.