September 13, 2008 |
Are we all just out of our minds with our Twitter addiction? You know what, I really hope that we are because some things that happen on Twitter just should not be considered normal anywhere – be it real life or virtual life. And while I am not aware of any official Twitter etiquette there are certain things that in my opinion should be condemned by the community and hopefully should never happen again.
Sure, we have already seen Twitter used for just about anything – self-promotion and promotion of content, announcing intention to raise funds for a startup and professional branding for established companies. We have even seen attempts to make money on Twitter and to infect other users’ computers with malware. But all of those are mostly for business and professional purposes but Twitter also has tons of various activities related to private lives of its users – we have seen bloggers sharing details of their children birth via Twitter and husbands and wives continuing their quarrels on Twitter for anyone to see.
And of course the level of openness that you choose for yourself on Twitter depends only on your personal opinion and your willingness to share your private life and events with the world. But there are things that just should never appear on Twitter and sound like way too much for me.
This post is inspired by the recent event of Rocky Mountain News reporter Berny Morson twittering live from a funeral of a 3-year old boy. The Colorado newspaper sent the reporter to the memorial service with the assignment to prepare the article on the event but instead he decided not to wait until it is over and reported on everything going on via Twitter sending updates from his cell phone. All those updates were sent right to the newspaper’s site for all the visitors to witness the event in real time.
The newspaper decided the event was newsworthy because it was a tragedy as the boy died when a pickup truck drove in the local Baskin Robbins ice cream shop. And while it is obvious that such a tragedy is newsworthy and was supposed to get massive coverage in various media outlets, twittering every few minutes of the service sounds like way too much and not exactly ethical to me, especially words like “people sobbing”. It is a tragedy, after all!
This approach to coverage of the tragedy by the newspaper has resulted in outrage in various media outlets. It is really not surprising as the reporter did not even think it was inappropriate to constantly send text messages right from the chapel where the service took place. I don’t think there’s big difference between sending constant text messages to Twitter from a cell phone and using a camera in the chapel where the family did not want any cameras. Frankly speaking, such a moment is not when you would expect someone to constantly be on the phone texting.
I strongly believe that in certain cases the line between public and private events should not be blurred. What’s more, if parents allowed presence of a reporter at the funeral, it does not mean they wanted anyone willing to witness every single minute of their grief.
Yes, Twitter is a powerful tool that – as any tool – can be used either for good or bad purposes depending on actual person using it. But I think there must be at least some ethical limit that we should not go beyond whenever possible. And if you yourself are willing to share details of your own private life with the entire world, it does not mean that you should be equally free in sharing details of someone else’s private life – let alone tragedy like this. And the fact that you can use a powerful tool does not mean that you should use it without thinking about possible consequences.