Yesterday evening I noticed the phrase “#2minutetwittersilence” creeping up in the trending list on Twitter.
It was basically the idea that everybody ought to avoid sending any tweets between 11.00 AM and 11.02 AM on Remembrance Sunday, as a mark of respect for those who fought and died in the two world wars. This might seem like a sweet idea, but it soon became clear that this particular campaign was far more shallow and cynical than it might seem.
Firstly, the campaign seemed to be spearheaded by people who clearly just wanted to take part in a trend, rather than actually making a sincere effort to pay their respects. It seemed that every other tweet featuring the “2minutetwittersilence” hashtag also contained the phrase “This would be so cool if this happens!” or “Retweet!” or “Let’s get this trending!” (or sentiments of a similar nature). I would argue that paying respects to the dead is more about personal reflection – a moment of quiet solitude – rather than about getting everyone else on board with your idea.
It may seem cynical, but the tweeters who were pushing the campaign seemed most interested in showing the world how thoughtful and respectful they were. And it reeked of self-righteousness, very much those who donate to charity and then don’t shut up about it. If you donate out of the goodness of your heart (and likewise, if pay your respects to the dead) without feeling the need to shout it out to the rest of the world, then it seems genuinely respectful, rather than painfully insincere.
Secondly, and all the more shamelessly, was the attitude of those taking part in the #2minutetwittersilence campaign towards anyone who may not have taken part in the twitter silence. Here are a few examples of the sanctimonious, holier-than-thou tweets that were posted before the twitter silence had begun:
- “I’m warning you all now for the #2minutetwittersilence I’ll be going down my timeline unfollowing anyone who tweets.” (@thesamball)
- “i’m doing the #2minutetwittersilence and anyone who tweets between 11:00 and 11:02 prepare to be unfolllowed whoever you are” (@jackbenedwards)
- “Well I DID the #2minutetwittersilence … A lot of the people I follow didn’t though. (@shaaniamoreton)
- “Can’t wait for 11 o clock, see what disrespectful c**ts tweet during the two minutes #2MinuteTwitterSilence” (@charlo_d)
Obviously, the final tweet on the list above epitomises the attitude that many participants had, in that they were clearly more concerned about their own self-righteousness and having the opportunity to look down on others from their high horse. Ironically, of course, tweets such as @charlo_d’s only serve to show the world that she was taking part for the least sincere of reasons.
In the hours following the two minute silence, there were countless twitter users saying that they were “going to unfollow the people who tweeted during the two minute silence”, along with various insults directed towards those who did tweet. Which I feel undermined any genuine sincerity that the campaign may have had in the first place. (And of course, all those who did launch insults towards the ‘silence-breakers’ clearly didn’t stop to think that perhaps they were not aware that any such “twitter silence” was supposed to be taking place…)
In summary, it is fair to say that there will have probably been many people who heard about the campaign, thought it was a good idea, perhaps retweeted it once (without trying to force others to conform, flinging insults or threatening to unfollow those who did not), and left it at that. Fair enough, if that is how one wishes to pay their respects. But ultimately, the whole campaign looked shabby and insincere, and for many users it seemed like self-righteousness was the true reason for their participation.
Next time, I’d suggest going to a service, donating to a veteran’s charity, or having a couple of minutes of quiet reflection in the real world. The world of social media need not be involved, especially when it is only being used to show off to the world, and exploit a good cause for shallow reasons.
All comments are welcome.
- UPDATE: Today I was informed by my friend Alex that the Guardian ran a story on a similar theme a few days ago. As much as I would disagree with the idea that one should not mourn the passing of someone they didn’t know personally (particularly, for example, if the circumstances were tragic, or if the person was considered to have made a significant contribution to society), I would still suggest that it’s an interesting article in regards to the way in which Twitter functions. Click here to view the article.