What a weekend of news…. the shocking scenes and unimaginable horror unfolding in Oslo, the devastating train crash in China, another tragic shooting at a birthday party in Texas, the sad loss of Amy Winehouse to her battle with drugs….I could go on. Add this to the ever present backdrop of deaths due to famine in Somalia, and the continuing un-rest in places like Libya and it can all get a bit much too bear or rationalise.
While the News stations try to keep up and offer news as soon as it’s factually confirmed, it’s Twitter where I usually learn of things first and where I welcome the opportunity to share thoughts, sadness and questions with others in my network. I value the community I have built on Twitter of mostly local people who make me laugh, offer support, and who I learn from and rarely in my timeline is there spam, or nastiness and until this weekend I’ve never felt disappointed by the words of others and angry at a genre of feelings that were being expressed.
It was late afternoon that the news of Amy began to break. It started as disbelief and people questioning whether it was a rumour. Then as the news stations gradually started to confirm the news there was a sudden outpouring of shock and sadness mingled with a recognition of the inevitability this sad story had.
Then it started…
“Personally think it is disgraceful people mourning Amy Winehouse and not mentioning 92 dead in Norway. Shame on all of you”
“The death of Amy Winehouse is tragic but let’s also remember the 92 innocent people killed in Norway & the millions starving in East Africa”
“As tragic as the death of Amy Winehouse is, let’s keep some perspective in relation to the recent Oslo massacre.”
And so it went on. It seemed everytime someone dared to express sympathy or sadness over the news of Amy’s death, they would almost be reprimanded for having been so selfish as to consider this death important in comparison to the deaths of many more in a different situation. By Sunday morning there was barely any mention of Amy Winehouse and where there was it was incorporated in a tweet that also mentioned Oslo.
But why did this bother me so much? I’m still not completely sure, but to push guilt on someone who is expressing loss, or to make someone feel bad for their emotional reaction to one event being different to another, saddened me. Would we say, “Let’s get some perspective over Oslo, it’s a small number of deaths compared to what’s occurring in Libya?” Of course not! Would we say to a parent, “Get things in perspective, you may have lost your daughter but in Oslo many families have lost theirs?” No, of course we wouldn’t. Unless I’m mistaken there is no sliding scale of sympathy. No grading on the news as to how much sympathy or sadness you are allowed to feel for a certain event on a scale of 1 to 10 and nor should there be!
We are human beings, a product of our up-bringing and the people around us. We have the capacity to feel sadness and pain over a multitude of events, and grief at one does not take away from grief and shock at another. So I wonder why so many felt the need to belittle others feelings in this way……? You know I really don’t know.
But what is very clear to me is yes, there is a very definite difference in feeling to the news of Amy Winehouse’s sad demise in relation to the tragic deaths in Oslo and it’s all about personality, people and how we relate to each other. At the moment the deaths in Oslo are numbers. We don’t know who they are, we don’t know about their lives and so it’s our head that processes this shock and sadness. Through her music, through the press and through her own openness, we feel a sense of attachment to Amy, good or bad, we feel we know her, and it is for this reason that it is our hearts that process this news, and the emotion can be stronger, and feel more real. There is no loss of perspective, it’s simply that our emotions leave us more vulnerable to things we can relate to. As the days unfold and the stories from Oslo start to tell us who the people were and about their lives, their families, their hopes and ambitions, we’ll feel that pain in our hearts there too. For we’re people and we react and relate to people, not numbers, not facts.
So can we learn from this and understand this? Yes of course, and we do, and that’s exactly why Social Media works. Those companies who step out from their brand and show us their human side. Who talk to us, share things with us and let us know what makes them tick, earn from us an emotional feeling and a sense of attachment. We are a world of consumerism and excess and we have choices. So many choices that it’s just a numbers game. When we’re looking for a product or service we can use our heads to weigh up price, location, delivery and longevity, or we can use our hearts and make our choice based on someone we care about, someone we met, someone we relate to……And if Amy Winehouse’s death trending above Oslo this weekend teaches us one thing, it’s that when it comes to people, there’s no greater pull than personality.