by Paula on July 24, 2011

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.




Kevin Leighton July 26, 2011 at 9:47 pm

A well thought out and moving piece about people, the twitter community and peoples perception of life and what is important.

I agree with you that you would hope that within the wider reaches of the Twitter community you would find at least an element of support and understanding for your point of view even if people do not necessarily agree with it.

The Twitter community is however drawn from the same walks of life where such support and understanding is not always forthcoming and users have brought that same mindset to Twitter where people find it easier to criticise than try to understand.

Having personal interactions with people in the limelight, no matter how brief, can be an uplifting moment in your life that stays with you sometimes forever. It doesn’t affect how you feel about other events but makes a tragic event involving that individual that much more personal to you.

My advice? Don’t get despondent, keep writing. People will support you!

Paula July 27, 2011 at 9:15 am

Hi Kevin. Many thanks for your comments and support. What makes Twitter so useful is it does draw from all walks of life and it offers people with a wide range of perspectives and attitudes. Do note that the comments weren’t directed at me and they were just expressions from others, which I felt offered not just a different opinion (which would be fine) but one which was hurtful and dismissive of others feeling which is never nice. I’m as opinionated as the next person (!) but I think it was the judgement and scorn on people that were feeling hurt that saddened me on this occasion. It’s been great the level of feeling I’ve had towards this blog and other articles I’ve seen since which also support this viewpoint. That has given a much-needed sense of positivity to difficult times. Thanks again.

John Foster July 24, 2011 at 10:57 pm

Paula, I totally agree with your words in this post. I have a family member who was addicted and when he was ready he came to us for help. This family member has now been clear for almost 9 years, had he not been ready for this help he would have no doubt ended up the same way as Amy.

Most of those who have made those unthoughtful and hurtful comments have most likely never been in a situation to fully understand why people like Amy or the member of my family turn to drink or drugs.

Amy and others like her deep down are just normal human beings just like you or I and there families at times like this do not need to hear these hurtful and horrible words, they need compassion and sympathy.

Rant over.

Paula July 26, 2011 at 9:36 am

Thanks for your comments John. I’ve had my faith in human nature restored by the support and fantastic feedback I’ve had to this blog. I don’t know if you read the piece from Russell Brand but he mentioned that with addicts you get that call one day, either the one like Amy’s father got, or the one that you referred to above, where the person is ready for change. We all hope it’s the second but sadly, often it can be the first. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Laura Thomas July 24, 2011 at 10:40 pm

Thank you Paula for sharing a well written, educational, mature and human piece about the numerous tragic events this weekend.
I read a post from a ‘friend’ on facebook earlier “Amy winehouse – self inflicted, Norway – no choice!!!” and it has bothered me greatly all day.
Both were tragic events and a tragic loss of human life and neither should be compared against or undermined by each other. Not least, because as you say, at the moment they cannot be compared. In fact, the similarity is that both will result in the most imaginable pain to many different families and friends.

Paula July 26, 2011 at 9:38 am

Thanks Laura. Your friend’s post is exactly the type of post that really affected me this weekend. Firstly the suggestion that addiction is some kind of chosen way of life, and secondly that it’s the comparing happening again. It’s almost as if we’d be allowed to feel more sympathy and sadness for Amy if Oslo hadn’t happened. How ridiculous is that?

Natalie Shade July 24, 2011 at 9:47 pm

That was a well thought and well written post. Well done Paula, and I totally agree on all of your points.

Paula July 26, 2011 at 9:40 am

Many thanks Natalie. It’s genuinely heartwarming to know there are so many others who understand where I’m coming from. It’s nerve-wracking to publish something that might seem to go against the tide of feeling but knowing that actually there are more people out there knowing where I’m coming from is very comforting.

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