At what point do we stop glorifying tech companies, their platforms, and our use of them, and start saying, “You know what? That’s messed up. You shouldn’t do that”? Let me give you one example from an organization I actually like, NPR. It involves Weekend Edition host Scott Simon, whom you might have read about, deciding to live tweet the last week of his mother’s life.
I legitimately feel for Scott, as I saw what my Dad went through when he lost both of his parents in the span of three months between December of 1999 (on Christmas Eve, no less) and March of 2000. Any time someone dies, it’s sad. I think all of us, sociopaths excluded, would agree with that statement. So, while I’m sorry to hear about Scott’s loss in as much of a way as one stranger can feel sorry for another stranger’s loss, I don’t agree at all with the live tweeting of his mother’s last moments on Earth.
You know what? That’s messed up. You shouldn’t do stuff like that.
Some people thought the live tweeting was “brave,” and his tweets garnered retweets by celebrities, which is how stuff actually “goes viral” on the Internet. (That’s right, I went there. Again.) But. Just because the celebrities are sharing stuff and the media is saying what Scott did was “brave” doesn’t make it so. And I found few among you who thought live tweeting the death of your mother was the right way to handle things. So, I’m not alone here raging against what I think is the final frontier of our own self-absorbed narcissism and love of technology above everything (and everyone) else.
— Katie Couric (@katiecouric) July 29, 2013
Although we all grieve in different ways, and this was probably Scott’s way of dealing with things, it also sets a horrible precedent and example for others to follow.
I was there when my grandfather passed away in 2004, and I was there when my ex-wife’s grandfather passed away in 2011. Doing the end of life thing is not easy, but you know what? In 2011, when we knew the end was coming for the man my ex-wife considers to be her hero, I left the iPhone at home. Tweeting about his death was the last thing on my mind. The man was a goddamn army hero during World War 2. Attention must be paid.
This isn’t written from some place of privilege. In fact, as a Millennial, you would think I’d be ok with live tweeting the death of a loved one, but I’m not. The simple fact is, I almost died a couple of times on July 9th while undergoing what was thought to be a routine heart procedure. My Mom and Dad were present when I almost kicked the bucket after the surgery, and my Mom is an avid Twitter user. If I found out she or anyone else was live tweeting a play-by-play of my two near death experiences, I’d be pretty upset about it. Fortunately, she didn’t, but it got me thinking about when we should put the phone away and just focus on the moment instead.
I can’t fathom a world where, if the role was reversed and it was my Mom who was dying, that I’d be on my phone telling thousands of people about it on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, Tumblr, or LinkedIn. Most of us can’t, which is why all of this is important to talk about. We shouldn’t look at what Scott did as “brave.” It wasn’t. It was messed up, and you shouldn’t do stuff like that.