I woke up this morning to the news of the terrible terrorist attack in Paris. It’s been a dreadful few weeks, with the sudden loss of a friend to cancer, a death in the family and now this. I was about to start looking for flights and hotels too.
As with many news events nowadays, social media played a big part in both dissemination of information and for people to express their feelings. What I observed on my fb, twitter and instagram feeds was quite interesting:
- fb — fb friends’ demographics are fairly homogeneous in terms of background, education and values. It’s a close and tight community. Plus, I’m careful about whose friend request I accept, which perpetuate the sameness. The reaction to #fusillade was overwhelmingly outrage, sadness and sympathy
- twitter — I follow all sorts on twitter: runners, professional athletes, whisky & wine lovers, travellers, nano participants, artists, writers, photographers, chefs, GBBO partipants, journalists, tech people, gamergate people, celebrities. Some I follow to see what sort of mischief they get up to. Some are people whose views I may not necessary agree with. I don’t check twitter all the time, but if there is an important event, it’s the first place I go to. Most of the updates for #fusillade was via twitter and the reaction was varied, from sadness and sympathy to more controversial views
- instagram — instagram was quiet, people continued posting as normal albeit slightly subdued, a couple of the parispaix image
image via the guardian
I spent most of the morning following the livefeeds on the guardian and NYT (they disabled the paywall for this event) as well as #paris and my own feed on twitter.
For some reason, one person’s twitter posts stood out. Suffice it to say they are an author and possibly self publish, I’m not sure. I’ve noticed the tweets by this person for a long time, because it’s all the same: “buy my book” multiple times every day. RTs are when they are @mentioned by others, also writing and publishing and book buying related.
So when the news in Paris broke, and everyone was waiting with bated breath as the police operation went underway, what did this person do? A “buy my book” post. Seriously. In the middle of the largest attack on a western city since 9/11. Where was the common sense? Where was the perspective? Where was the empathy towards the dead, the injured, le gendarmarie?
I don’t know this individual personally.1 I could have, and arguably should have, sent them a friendly DM. But I didn’t because I thought a DM from a stranger will likely be taken the wrong way and have the opposite effect.
I’m not saying don’t post. Life goes on. My feed gradually filled up with non-Paris posts, although I noticed they were more low key. If I had gone running, I would have done my normal running post too. My issue with this author was the constant barrage of promotional posts did not stop2 when it was clearly inappropriate. The excuse that they weren’t aware of what was happening doesn’t fly because they were RTing Paris stuff too.
It was the last straw. So I vented on fb. I added that I’m sad and pissed off. I figured, in a while, I’ll calm down and I’ll delete it. No one will be any wiser.
The post blew up. Mainly agreeing. Like I said, homogeneous group. The post isn’t public, only people I have personal interactions saw it. The comments were somewhat valid, so I thought I’ll leave it up. There were hints that certain commenters saw the same tweets.
One person called me out on it. She disapproved of the way we seemed to have gone all lynch mob on the author. That it was disappointing that no one thought to educate instead of hanging someone out to dry. That we should be more forgiving about mistakes. Since it is someone I really respect, it was time for self-reflection. Was it wrong to say something so harsh? Should I have said nothing? Should I have contacted the author to understand where they were coming from?
I looked at the author’s twitter feed again. Another promotional post had gone up in the meantime. This is the gist of what I added to the OP:
- it’s common sense to know what to not do in times of tragedy
- how many times have people written about written about the perils of constantly bombarding readers with “buy my book” posts? Everytime, the answer is don’t do it
- if you’re on social media, be ready that someone will disagree with you
- we should stop catering to the lowest common denominator in society
I mean what I say, about lowest common denominators in society. Because a handful drunken louts damaged a property, now no one can go inside [a park, a building etc]. Because one person freaks out at witchcraft and sorcery, Harry Potter books are banned. Because someone has no common sense, we should use kid gloves to oh-so-gently nudge them in the right direction. How many people will step up when a customer insults an autistic employee when most businesses would act the opposite way?
Was I a meanie, posting on fb? Possibly. Did the author deserve it? Possibly, since they seem to have taken a what-not-to-do guide and did exactly those things (yet another promotional post came up later). They probably deserved a more reconciliatory tone. Would I do it again? I sure hope that the circumstances leading to needing to rant never occur, ever.
1 This person posts a lot. Yet I have no clue about their personality. Do they like where they live? Favourite food? Do they have pets? Post something other than writing or RTs that make me interested in you AS A PERSON. For all I know, this is a bot.
2 A thought occurred to me that they are scheduled. I don’t have the energy to check timestamps. Even if they were scheduled, turn it off.