Two throwaway comments got me into a little spot of bother last night on Twitter. Both were insensitive and in both instances I was challenged. And in defending my position I really learned something surprising.
Firstly, the first instance. I corrected someone who tweeted using the word ‘less’ when they should have used ‘fewer’. It was a lighthearted, casual tweet and I apologised even as I was sending the tweet. It’s a bugbear of mine. I find it impossible to ignore less v fewer. I can ignore millions of spelling and grammar mistakes, but that is one that really bothers me (hey, I’m a sub-editor!). So, stupidly I mentioned it.
Of course, the recipient took extreme offence and revealed on Twitter she’d suffered for years from terrible teasing due to her dyslexia and that my correction was highly insensitive. Uh-oh.
I eventually saw the light and belatedly apologised, which was graciously accepted. My insensitivity was in being a pompous ass in the first place and correcting others’ grammar in a form of communication that typically breaks all the rules. Nobody – me included – gets it right all the time when we’re trying to communicate in only 140 characters. So what’s the point in pointing out when someone’s got it wrong? No point at all, other than to be a pompous ass. Guilty as charged. And as I said to the unwitting recipient, “I’ve learned a lesson”. And I have.
Onto the second instance. Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton is in Australia for the coroner’s report into Azaria’s death. Sky News covered the coronial report in great detail, with a camera there all day. In my office at work a television is right in my line of sight and I was able to see the footage all day without moving my head.
At one point during the day, I retweeted a comment I thought highly of: “If I was (the Chamberlains) I would sneak out the back door. Screw you media.” I couldn’t agree more. For decades the media, serving its own agenda of driving sales and ratings, made this family’s life additionally traumatic on top of the grief they were going through of losing a daughter and sister.
There’s a difference between reporting the news and languishing in it and sensationalising it.
So Mrs Chamberlain-Creighton gave an exclusive interview to Tracy Grimshaw and A Current Affair. And I felt that if I had been through what Mrs Chamberlain-Creighton had been through over the past few decades at the hands of the media (and the law, but that’s a separate issue) there’s no way I would be giving them an interview, no matter how much money they paid me. (I have no idea if ACA paid Mrs Chamberlain-Creighton for her interview. I hope they did but I don’t know. Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t. I asked the general Twitterverse last night but no definitive answer was forthcoming).
Then I tweeted: “If I were Lindy I’d tell ACA to burn in hell”. In part I was holding ACA solely responsible for the sins of an entire media pack in the 1980s. A smidge unfair, I concede. But tabloid media exploits tragedy and I would not be boosting their ratings with an interview. (As it turns out, the ratings weren’t that high after all, drawing just 1.27 million, behind TT’s 1.28 million).
And into my inbox popped an email from an executive at ACA asking what was going on and why did I say what I said. I duly explained my comment, along the lines of what I just wrote here – I felt it was hypocritical to condemn Mrs Chamberlain-Creighton for 20 years and then turn around welcome her with open arms now – to which I’ve had no reply and nor do I expect one. (And in the interests of full disclosure the exec was one I had worked with at Kerri-anne).
For the record, I also tweeted that it was a great interview and Mrs Chamberlain-Creighton acquitted herself very, very well.
But in the cold light of day, two more realisations dawned. 1. The entire country condemned her and is now ‘changing its tune’. ACA is not alone here. 2. It’s not ‘changing your tune’ if, in the fullness of time (and with the weight of the coroner’s office behind you), to realise your position was wrong and to change it. That’s enlightened.
At first blush, I felt that both people who took offence to me last night were a little bit sensitive. Being on Twitter and being in the public eye you need to have a thick skin. But on reflection, I can see that I was falling under the seductive spell of the Twitterverse and its pseudo-anonymity. It’s easy to fire of snide, snippy comments into the black chasm of the Twitterverse. I have never met 95% of the people I follow or who follow me.
But as my husband said when I recounted the two tales to him: if they were sitting in our living room would you have said what you said, to either of them?
No. I would not have been so rude (“burn in hell” was a little OTT). So it’s fair to say I made a mistake and learned a lesson. My goal is that I only learn it this once. I’ve been on Twitter for a few years and this is the first time I’ve ever fallen foul of anyone with rude, inflammatory comments. And I will make sure it’s the last.