Twitter: enabling the new global rubberneckers

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I’ve written a rather challenging piece for Crikey today, Twitter: enabling the new global rubberneckers. Challenging to write, and maybe challenging to read.

I was disturbed on the weekend to see Twitter become some kind of morbid deathwatch. As every increment in the Victorian bushfire death tool was reported, it was retweeted and retweeted endlessly — even once the mainstream media had geared up and was providing live updates.

For people threatened by bushfires, or those concerned for the safety of loved ones, up-to-date news is vital. No argument. We also need to share our emotions as a community — that’s what makes us a community. It was heart-rending to see one 17 year-old tweet (and I won’t link), “Just got told that a few friends who live in the bushfire area haven’t been found yet. Where’s a tissue, I have a tear in my eye.”

But for everyone else, obsessively tracking every latest horror “to see what it looks like” is nothing but selfish “recreational grief”. The morbid rubbernecking so hated by police and emergency workers.

And I’ve written about recreational grief and recreational outrage before.

The article isn’t behind the paywall, so it’s free for all to read.

2 Replies to “Twitter: enabling the new global rubberneckers”

  1. I find the idea of recreational grief bizarre. The only way I can rationalise it is on the basis that the people who indulge in such things do so because they have never experienced real tragedy in their own lives, and in some way want to know how it feels. I guess I felt that way as an alienated, middle-class teenager. I don’t regret life giving me a few hard knocks as a wake-up call to what a stupid preoccupation that is, this doesn’t mean that I in any way enjoyed the process.

    As for Twitter, it’s an interesting medium, and handy for a person like myself who has always had random, disjointed thoughts that I feel the pressing need to share with anyone who will listen, although I’m still paddling in the shallow end of Twiter.

    And while the take-up is still low, the people who have taken it up have found some interesting (and less morbid) uses for it. Like the advent of Twitter fiction (or should I just start calling it “Twitfic” now to save society the trouble?), or even collaborative Twitter fiction.

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