Staring at my computer screen, trying to come up with another subtraction sum to add to the worksheet I’m making. A Whatsapp message flashes up on my phone which is never far from my reach, ‘Attack on Westminster, WTF?’ Instinctively I open up Twitter. It’s my go to for everything. A catch up with mates. A Kardashian update. A breaking news outlet. Even an instant attention fix. But it’s times like these, in aftermaths of events like these, that social media brings out the most extreme forms of attention seeking. It makes me beg the question, ‘how much attention do you really need?’
Don’t get me wrong. I use Twitter, Instagram and Facebook all day err day as a way to drive attention to my blog and therefore me. I call for page views. I ask questions. I run polls. I discuss the ins and outs of my life as I love to engage with my friends, my readers and people who haven’t discovered me yet. When the attention dies down, a little bit of me does too. I think everyone who uses social media as a hobby or to drive their ambitions would agree. But one thing I’ll never get my head round, is the use of other people’s misery or distressing current events to gain attention.
As I scroll through my feed, I’m roused to see tweets declaring that Londoners will come together. I inwardly applaud the RTs of people much more articulate than I who insist we don’t further marginalise or blame groups of people. My heart is warmed by people reaching out and asking their internet friends if they are safe. Equally though, I’m horrified.
I’m horrified by people retweeting photos of the injured or the affected. I’m horrified to see people mentioning accounts that are sharing misinformation. I’m horrified by the scaremongering, by the rumours and by the blaming.
As Influencers with any amount of platform we all have a duty to be responsible with what we share. Messages of hope, concern and solidarity should be shared in times like these. They are a welcome solace to some. Can we however, all just stop, think and ask ourselves if our voice is adding anything helpful or hopeful at these times or whether we are just using it for attention?
I know the temptation is there. To get a tweet to go viral because our fingers are on the pulse with this one. I know it’s tempting to link to information (without checking sources) because it will drive people to your page. I know it’s tempting to offer your opinion in the hope that lots of other people will agree and you’ll be lavished with praise and attention. But this is not the time.
Do you really need attention so much that you are sharing photos of wounded people whose families may see it?
Do you really need attention so much that you are RTing accounts that are spreading indirect hate?
Do you really need attention so much that you are telling people to run and hide because there are rumours of more attacks?
Do you really need attention so much that you are telling people that you are ‘really close’ to where it’s all ‘kicking off’ and describing, insensitively, what you can see?
Yes we may be Influencers. We may be creators. However, we are not journalists. It is not our jobs or space to report information. It’s not our responsibility to share photos that some people would not want to see.
Why am I writing this? For attention? Of course. That’s what blogging and writing for an audience is about. We want people to read. To engage. To share and to agree. But can we all just be aware of what it is we’re seeking attention for.
In the coming days, the events of today will become an anecdote – if you’re lucky, or a painful trauma if you’re not. We’ll all have hashtagged #PrayforWestminster and Twitter will have treated us to an emoji that fits. But once we take down our Union Jack flag-covered profile pictures and stopped talking about it, can we make a conscious effort to seek attention in more positive ways?
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