You Are Not Heartless for Tweeting “RIP Amy Winehouse”

I'm Better Than You - The Anti-Social MediaTwo major news events unfolded this weekend that involved death. One was a terrible tragedy in Norway that involved over 93 people dead in a senseless terrorist attack. Another was that Amy Winehouse, well-known singer and celebrity, died. Naturally, people shared both items of news across social networks.

Then, I saw people whining, moaning, and bitching about the number of tweets and Facebook updates they saw about the Amy Winehouse rather than those who shared the news about the tragedy in Norway.

Social networks are personal, narcissistic platforms. People share what is important to them. That could be how delicious a sandwich is, or how cute their dog is. Sometimes they share news that going on in the world. Other times, they share the death of a celebrity.

The people who compare the two events are smug assholes who want to shame you into feeling guilty and heartless. They want to be better than you. They want to prove through a hastily written update that they have more empathy than you.

There is no grade of what makes a good tweet or Facebook update. Sharing news, what ever the topic, does not make you an asshole. Heartless and cruel thoughts attached to the news you share do.

Don’t feel guilty because someone’s music touched your life and the least you wanted to do was share a passing message into the void of the internet. Personally, I cannot begin to comprehend the pain the people of Norway went through this weekend. While I know I have a few regular readers from Norway, I question what impact, if any, my written condolences would offer offered through the medium of this blog or any of the social networks I use. The best thing I can do is continue to do what I do best, call out the jerks and slime balls while making people laugh.

To people who would use a tragedy to guilt, shame, and deride other people in their moment of sadness about someone whose work touched them: How dare you be so heartless and selfish. Shame on you. You are everything that is wrong with the internet. 


24 Responses to You Are Not Heartless for Tweeting “RIP Amy Winehouse”

  1. Bryan Pitts July 25, 2011 at 8:28 am #

    Sorry, but I disagree, at least in part. The things we (and I include myself in this) prioritize in general are absolutely a statement of the banality and inanity of contemporary society. When people are more troubled by the not-so-surprising death of a 27-year old pop singer than by the senseless execution of 86 teenagers… yeah, I think that’s a damn shame. And since, as you yourself say, “social networks are personal, narcissistic platforms,” I and others who think like me have a right to express our disgust on our Facebook pages. For those who don’t like it… well, there’s always the “Hide all posts by so-and-so” option.

    However, despite your claims that those who complained about this are “smug assholes,” I completely include myself in my own indictment. I certainly most more than my share of football and college basketball-related status updates, and that’s undoubtedly less important than a pop star’s death. So I do get your point, in a wider sense. But I still think it’s unfortunate that our star-struck society has taught us to prioritize one singer over 86 teenagers who were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    • Rebecca Maschke July 25, 2011 at 10:02 am #

      From a sociological point of view, it’s hard to disagree with this post. There’s a phenomenon know as parasocial interaction at play here. Amy Winehouse is a person, or a figure, with whom many people have developed a parasocial relationship. When someone you feel you know and has been a part of your life, it is bound to have an effect on your life. The tragic events in Norway are perhaps just not as present for some people, as they have no relationship to Norway or the Norwegian people.

    • Giulia July 25, 2011 at 10:36 am #

      I agree with you Bryan.

      I particularly had both status: about Amy Winehouse death and the Norwegian disaster. I think that even though some people didn’t create their updates about Amy Winehouse because they thought she was more worth than the people killed by the attack, this only shows the balance of things in our society.

      Of course Winehouse was a great musician and deserve attention, but people should also be giving attention to the other 93 people.

      • Jay July 27, 2011 at 12:14 am #

        But what attention can they give? Does writing a status update even make a difference? Does writing “RIP Amy Winehouse” mean anything beyond the short amount of grief expressed?

        Showing attention in one area over another doesn’t mean lack of empathy. If I tweeted every sad thing and every tragedy, I’d never be able to write anything fun.

    • Jay July 27, 2011 at 12:34 am #

      I don’t know if it has to do with people being unable to relate, or star struck or whatever.

      But whatever the reasons for someone posting something or not posting another can’t be judged. There are just simply too many factors that could be considered in someone’s day about what they choose to prioritize and share.

      The only things I feel shouldn’t be posted are things that are truly hateful and hurtful. Those are the real enemies.

  2. Dori July 25, 2011 at 8:29 am #

    Perfectly said. Next time I see any tweets like that, I am replying with a link to this post.

    • Jay July 27, 2011 at 12:01 am #

      Is it wrong for me to want more people to die so I get more traffic?

  3. Paul Sutton July 25, 2011 at 9:22 am #

    I’ve been waiting to read this all day. Thank you Jay.

    • Jay July 27, 2011 at 12:00 am #

      Clearly, I need to write more about dead pop stars.

  4. Rebecca Maschke July 25, 2011 at 9:54 am #

    Those people are everything that’s wrong with the internet? I think you might mean ‘human nature’, ‘society’, ‘world’…. Thanks for this post.

    • Jay July 27, 2011 at 12:00 am #

      There’s more wrong with human nature. I just think that this facet in particular is enhanced by the semi-anonymity of the internet. You’d never say something like that to someone’s face.

  5. Kelsie Murdock July 25, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    Thank you for posting this. I completely agree. I know that what we post online can (to some extent) indicate what we are thinking about and what we most care about, but this isn’t always the case. It’s not fair for people to see that someone posted about Amy Winehouse and not the tragedy in Norway and just ASSUME that they only care about Ms. Winehouse or care more about her death than the deaths in Norway.

    Just goes back to the golden and cheesy rule of assumptions: when you assume, you make an ass out of “u” and “me.” (So don’t.)

    • Jay July 26, 2011 at 11:59 pm #

      I always assume. It makes better humor.

  6. Lance Haun July 25, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

    I generally agree. This should be expanded to all topics too. Outlets like Twitter and Facebook lack nuance and context. It’s good because it is easy to share but bad because of situations like this.

    I do think there is a time to talk about how we magnify the importance of celebrities, especially in the US. It causes all sorts of issues. But it seems needless to pit one against the other right now. It also seems like the reaction to death is one of the more minor issues that it causes.

    That being said, I didn’t tweet about either situation even though the Norway one was much closer to me personally. I don’t think the internet missed it either. However egotistical I may be, even I realize the internet doesn’t need everything I ever think.

    I also think growing thick skin is required to operate on the internet. These people may be the worse of the worst, but they don’t go away. I’ve been attacked over really innocuous posts and comments. I’ve grown to accept that many people will not accept, disagree, misunderstand and hate what I say.

    • Jay July 26, 2011 at 11:54 pm #

      Yeah, people are always going to be evil about things people post online, that’s just the nature of being able to hide behind a screen.

      Also, I wonder why people don’t criticize people who didn’t share either event? Technically, shouldn’t they be even more heartless?

  7. Claire Wagner July 25, 2011 at 4:31 pm #

    I don’t understand judgementalism (sp?) in general. Who has time for it?

    • Jay July 25, 2011 at 5:23 pm #

      Judges. And losers.

  8. Matthew July 25, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

    As Mr. Spock said to Dr. McCoy in the Immunity Syndrome, “I’ve noticed that about your people, doctor; you find it easier to understand the death of one than the death of a million. You speak about the objective hardness of the Vulcan heart… yet how little room there seems to be in yours.”

    The death of one is as tragic as the death of 90. As horrible. As painful. As worthy of note.

    • Jay July 27, 2011 at 12:35 am #

      How is it that Star Trek can say it better than I can?

  9. Ameena Falchetto (MummyinProvence) July 26, 2011 at 6:54 am #

    Who has the right to decide who we are to mourn or feel bad for? Honestly. Both instances were tragedies - is the word tragedy a spectrum? Ummm… no. Also who the hell has the right to tell me what I should feel and how I should say it?

    Thanks for this post - will be sharing.

    • Jay July 27, 2011 at 12:35 am #

      I want to make a tragedy spectrum now.

      • TC July 27, 2011 at 11:22 am #

        Would it involve all the colors in the rainbow? Or maybe a black rose?

  10. Anne July 26, 2011 at 9:42 am #

    “People share what is important to them.” That’s true. But when 86 people are executed and one is partied herself to death, and people are posting and tweeting more about how much they will miss Ms Winehouse, I really wonder what is important for people.

    • Jay July 27, 2011 at 12:42 am #

      I get that, but is it a true measure of our entire culture 24 hours worth of tweets?