Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Twitter not a place for intimate moments of death

I love Scott Simon and National Public Radio, but I was shocked at his decision to send Twitter posts recently during his mother's final hours.

Having been with my parents and a dear friend as they died, I couldn't imagine stepping out from that sacred time to send an electronic message to hundreds -- or thousands -- of strangers. One of my closest friends died in June, and all I thought about that day was being with her, totally, to let her know, even on a subconscious level, that she was loved and cared for.

Response to Simon's tweets appeared to be overwhelmingly positive. I felt like I was the only person who was bothered by the idea until I read this essay by Kim Triedman, a poet and novelist, on the website for WBUR, Boston's public radio station.

Triedman writes about "what seems to me a disturbing phenomenon in our society whereby our communication technologies are increasingly commandeering what have historically been intimate human experiences."

She notes that the New York Times said Simon did not begin his deathbed vigil with a "project" in mind. And he did not know when he began tweeting that his mother's hospitalization would end in her passing. But he continued, for more than a week, during which time his mother continued to decline.

Triedman stresses that she's not critical of Simon or even of Twitter. "I know the impulse to reach out, to share the burden."

But she adds: "What I am most concerned with here is the fact that technology has once again afforded us a way to distance ourselves from the very substance of our lives -- to put some other 'thing' between us and our loved ones...

"Twitter, I would maintain, is a zone. A place that is decidedly not where you are. A state of mind in which you're always looking out for the next 140 character windfall, something you can scavenge out of this experience and that, like a photographer so intent on a picture that he neglects to take in the scene.

"Wherever it is, whatever it is, it's not a place I want to be when grief comes to call."


Anonymous said...

100% agree! I would not have wanted any technology taking away from the bittersweet & beautiful last months with my parents. Adore Scott Simon & there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Though my spouse knows that I want NO info on FB, Tweets, etc about my dying or death unless through our personal communication. We are very private people. Let others wave the cause ribbons (with our support).

Anonymous said...

I agree 100% having watched both my parents die the last thing on my mind was tweeting, or facebooking- etc-- sounds like someone who was looking for validation or attention- when he should have been 100% in the moment with the events at hand- lets all hope he can live with this in the months, and years to come.