Editorial: Grief Should Not Be Social


Ever had that unswallowable lump in the back of your throat as you watch something terrible happen?  Upon watching the details slowly unfold about the Batman premiere shooting in Aurora on Friday, it's fair to say that many more than myself probably felt this.  A tense few hours of reports commenced, showing the true strength of social media in keeping the planet perfectly synchronised in referrence to any event, and bringing a community together in condolence lending.

Talking Points Memo publisher Callie Schweitzer has published a piece on Mashable about the strength of social media when it comes to grieving and loss.  How in the face of acts of sheer inhumanity as this, the world can connect and celebrate the lives of those lost on the tragic day.  

One Jessica Ghawi (referred to in the Mashable editorial as Jessica Redfield), for example, will be known by those in the Twitterverse as an aspiring journalist with a great sense of humour.  Her story is touching, and the irony of her involvement in the Toronto Eaton Centre shooting one month earlier is truly saddening.  But her family, her friends (in the definition of 'friends' before social media reduced it to a connection of two strangers), those who are close to her in a physical sense will be much further connected on a deeper level than any tweet or Facebook update could possibly allude to.

This is not me trying to trivialise any form of anguish felt by anyone in this situation.  It's a deeply troubling series of events that has led to what should have been such an innocent evening of visiting the cinema into a truly fearful and unsettling time.  I do not wish for anyone to interpret the following contradiction to Callie's thought provoking editorial as an attack, and my thoughts go out to everyone involved.  

But in very much the same vein of argument that comes from watching the aftermath of tragic events, and the scenes of grief on television, or reading about it in the newspaper, I can't help but feel I somewhat know too much of the events.  This time in life, when people are most vulnerable should stay personal, and shouldn't be mediated on a global scale, even if the aim was not that of mediation but of paying condolences via an open forum of community discussion.

This is not because of any hesitance to present any sort of humanity and emotion on these networks, as its these very two characteristics that perpetuate networks like Twitter into the stratosphere of conversation.  But something like this leaves the memory of those who did not to deserve to die in such horrific circumstances open to people becoming rather self-serving in the grief of someone they didn't know, which I feel to be disrespectful.

She has been an inspirational character with her tweets, and I can really connect with the ideal of living a life holding onto what is true to me in times of unjustness and unexplainable cruelty, taking nothing (including tomorrow) for granted.  But I feel we should grant those close to the victims of this act of inhumanity the decency of privacy to grieve about who they are truly, tangibly connected to.

Jason England