Is there a time and place for twitter?

The premature death of anyone taken before their time is often shocking and always devastating to those left behind. It prompts sympathy and sadness from people that had never met the deceased, and an overwhelming reminder to appreciate your loved ones.

It also creates a whole other dimension to the grieving process. I can personally vouch for the power of the sucker punch that the loss of possibility delivers. The ‘what could’ve been?’ question will torture the mourner, particularly if that question has a focus, for example, with the loss of a partner, ‘what would our future together have been like?’

In the case of promising Surrey cricketer Tom Maynard, who died early on Monday morning after being hit by a London Underground train near Wimbledon, that question is, ‘how far could he have gone in his career?’ Pegged to follow in the footsteps of his father Matthew Maynard into an England shirt,
it’s a question likely to be asked whenever his tragic death is discussed in the future. But it’s a pointless question with only fantasy providing any answer, and just another form of self-torture for those who are mourning his loss.

Twitter exploded with messages of shock and sympathy as the news spread. But as I read the sad words of the who’s who of the cricketing world I felt slightly uncomfortable. I can understand people wanting to express their feelings at what had occurred, grief is a bewildering and comprehensive emotion, and to find common sentiment is reassuring. But something about everyone pouring their heart out on a social networking site seemed a little disingenuous. I’m sure the words were not cheap to those who wrote them, but the vehicle used for their delivery felt somehow inappropriate.

I do not mean to sound critical of those in mourning; everyone reacts in their own way to the bewildering and distressing feeling. I can understand the need to talk about it, to know that you are not alone in the sadness that you are experiencing. But I was very surprised to read in the paper this morning that Maynard’s girlfriend had tweeted about her loss last night. Does tweeting your sadness to the world provide some comfort? I hope for Carly Baker it did. All I can say is that it didn’t for me when I lost someone that I loved; in fact, I avoided social media for many months. It felt like such a trivial distraction that to partake in it would shrink the enormity of what had happened. Accepting the normality of using twitter and Facebook seemed, in turn, to indicate accepting the loss, perhaps the hardest part of moving on.

But grief is such a personal and selfish beast that who am I to comment on anyone else’s methods of dealing with it? I send my best wishes to all of Tom Maynard’s friends and families in the struggle that is to come.

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2 responses to “Is there a time and place for twitter?

  1. Perhaps facebook and twitter are merely one method of expressing loss and deep grief. No matter how loss is expressed, it will make others uncomfortable. Each person handles grief differently – both initially and as time goes by. In addition, following a deep loss, people tend to (in their numbness following the loss) respond in a manner that was “normal” or typical for them before the loss; it’s a familiar pattern and they don’t know what else to do.

  2. This is spot on btw…

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