Monday, August 5, 2013

Sacred Ritual And Twitter, Some Thoughts On @nprscottsimon Live Tweeting His Mother's Death

It was another perfect Los Angeles day. My family and I sat on the veranda of the hotel as the midafternoon sun cascased gently onto the shoulders of the onlookers. We collected in rows of chairs that were covered in white linen. The music marched forward, and the wedding party assembled cleanly in pairs of twos. We all knew what was coming next. Of course there would be some variation, but most have been through enough weddings to be familiar with the routine.

We use rituals to mark our sacred events: beginnings and endings, birth and death, and even marriage. We gather our loved ones, our communities, to celebrate or mourn with us. But as the bride and groom waltzed down the aisle at the end of ceremony with smiles on their faces, I scanned the reaction of the spectators. A number of them were hunched over their mobile phones. No doubt facebooking and tweeting. And I couldn't help but think for a moment about Scott Simon.

Many know that Scott recently made a splash in the social media world by live tweeing the death of his mother. At first, being a physician involved in hospice and palliative care, I wasn't thrilled with the idea. His tweets were authentic and brilliant, but while reading them my first inclination was to wish that he would put down his phone and just be with his family.

This wedding reminded me how profoundly we have been altered by social media. It has become crystal clear that our digital communities are just as important as our traditional, filial, and geographic ones.

Scott turned to twitter to share this sacred moment with his friends, family, and yes, followers. The outpouring of love, respect, and well wishing he received is exactly what one would expect at a traditional funeral but was more consistant with his digital reality.

Scott, I'm sorry that I originally doubted you. I have a profoundly different understanding of community after reading your eloquent tweets.

My deepest and most heart felt condolences to you and your family.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I greatly appreciated what Scott shared as he did it with deep love and humility, able to laugh through his tears. Would that we all bid goodbye with such touching eloquence.