News on twitter: Too much too soon?

I don’t imagine I’ll be blogging much over the coming weeks. I won’t lie, the last couple of days have been tough.

Yesterday, my husband was late home from work. His motorbike wasn’t there when I got back from taking the girls to a dance class.

I thought he must have been held up at work, so I got the girls in and started cooking tea.

As time passed, I realised that inconsiderate though he is at times, I would probably have heard if he’d been that late finishing work.

So, I gave him a call. He didn’t answer, so I thought he was probably on his bike on the way home.

I checked twitter to see whether there were any problems with the traffic.

This was what I saw.

But the thing is, I was on my phone and something caught my eye so I zoomed in.

Just to the right of the ambulance, there’s a red motorbike by the hedge.

The same motorbike that hadn’t turned up on our drive.

I knew that my husband would have stopped if he’d seen an accident, but I also knew that with all the emergency services there, he would have let me know he was going to be late.

So as soon as I saw it I realised he’d been involved.

Minor accidents don’t really happen where motorbikes are concerned, and the tweet was quite specific about it being serious – they even put it in capital letters.

When the phone finally rang a few minutes later and I was told my husband was injured and on the way to hospital, I was pleased.

That sounds like a terrible thing to say, but when I saw that tweet I thought he was dead.

And there was nothing I could do other than carry on cooking the tea so I didn’t upset the children.

We chatted today at the hospital about the fact I’d found out on twitter.

He didn’t want anyone to ring me until he knew which hospital he was going to and whether he’d be airlifted. He didn’t want to worry me.

And shouldn’t he have the right to make that decision?

I understand that people need to know there has been an accident and they may need to avoid the area. I’d want to know too.

But was it acceptable for me to find out like that; was there any need for the photograph?

I know nothing about journalism, perhaps this is just what happens these days.

But I do know that for those few minutes, it didn’t feel okay.

I suppose things like this happen all the time, people finding out via social media that something has happened to a loved one.

Maybe that makes it all right.

Or maybe the local newspaper just didn’t realise it was an issue.

Perhaps it isn’t an issue at all.

But for me in those few minutes, it was.

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  1. I can not imagine how you must have felt. It is hard to know what is the right thing. My father died after an industrial accident and I would not have wanted to find that out on social media. It was 15 years ago, so it was the newspapers then and it was hard getting the family informed before it was in the local paper. I hope that your husband is OK and that his recovery will not be too horrible.

    1. Thank you Jen. I also don’t know what’s the right thing. I don’t know whether I’m doing the right thing by sharing what happened, but I wondered if the papers had an insight about what it was like, maybe they might think twice about publishing something like that next time? I don’t know.x

  2. Oh gosh Natalie I read this with my heart on my mouth. I would be absolutely devastated if this happened to me, I am so relieved for you that your husband is ok but really, really feel for you. That must have been just awful. I can’t even really put into words how bad I feel for you. xxx

  3. This is awful. I would have hated to find out this way. Those moments between seeing and then finding out must have been horrendous. I know a friend of a friend had found out online about a serious accident and saw their sons car crashed in the picture (He didn’t have any ID on him either) they found out, like you, in a very poor way. I think journalism is a machine that reports and at times forgets the humanity behind it. In cases like this its shocking that there isn’t a better way of publicising the report.

    Not sure what’s right really as I can see the “reporting” side as useful but not in that way. Sharing this though is definitely a start.

    I.hope he’s ok.

  4. Oh my goodness – That is just awful. I remember reading about an American woman who had live tweeted after finding out about her husbands accident on Twitter, and the outcome wasn’t good. It is so shocking that journalists have the freedom to publish these images, I can understand the need for traffic news but images seem completely unnecessary. I hope your husband has a speedy recovery.

  5. Oh Natalie! 🙁 Goodness me, I cannot imagine how utterly terrifying and heart stopping that must have been for you. I’m so glad to hear your husband is ok and I hope he has a speedy recovery. And I hope you get over the shock of seeing that tweet very very soon. You know, it might be worth just emailing the newspaper to tell them what happened (perhaps linking to this post). They probably haven’t even thought of the possible consequences. X

  6. That must have been awful. What a dreadful way to find out.

    Slightly different scenario but I was soooo annoyed when I had my first baby and my brother in law announced it on FB. I had family upset with me because I hadn’t told them in person but when the status went up I was still being stitched up! Plus, that was my news to share.

  7. My goodness what a way to find out. I hope he’s doing ok and you too. Pictures are unecessary in my opinion you must’ve been very worried x

  8. I’m so sorry you had to go through this! I did a journalism degree and we were always taught about waiting a reasonable time for relatives to be contacted before reporting any identifiable facts online, not to include images with identifying characteristics etc. But back then twitter didn’t exist! It’s scary how fast news travels nowadays and if a news outlet didn’t report on it then the public probably would – though you might not have seen it so easily. Still, it’s not right that you found out that way. Hope he is on the mend though. Xx

  9. How scary! That’s a difficult stretch of road – I know it well as my grandmother used to live in Malvern until recently. I do think technology can be a curse as well as a blessing. Hope your husband recovers quickly. Thinking of you. x

  10. I hope your husband is ok and it’s not too serious, if i was in your position id be writing to the local paper to make a complaint, they really don’t have the right to report on incidents like that where someone could’ve been killed without checking that relatives have been informed first

  11. Oh no! I hope your husband is on the mend? It must be awful to find out that way and not know what’s going on. I don’t know how I feel about these things, but I don’t see how that picture was really necessary. Sending hugs to you and your family. Xx

  12. Wow, this is shocking news Nat, I really hope Phill is doing okay. You are fully correct and finding out through a picture posted on Twitter, should never be the way. I do think it’s fine for them to point out the possibility of delays, so people can make other plans. But there really is no need for a picture of the accident site. It just adds an extra level of panic and dread to an already stressful situation. If there is anything I can do don’t hesitate to let me know. xx