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Dr Anderson Uvie-Emegbo - And The Tweets Grew Cold
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Tuesday, 08 October 2013 14:31

And The Tweets Grew Cold Featured

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Death came calling unexpected (as it so often does) for some of the passengers of the ill-fated Associated Airlines chartered flight that crashed in Lagos on Thursday, 3rd October 2013.  

This excerpt from Rudyard Kipling’s timeless poem, “If” came to me as I looked for a way to comfort the grieving.

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:


If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man my son!

In the immediate aftermath of the crash, twitter as usual exploded. While there were some credible news flashes complete with gory photos, there were an increasing number of tweets that were obviously misleading, plain mischievous and sometimes blatantly wicked. A particular tweet caught my attention. It was that of a guy wishing that his ex was on the flight. I had thought it was a joke but he stoutly defended his comments. What a sick joke! I have lost loved ones in traumatic situations in the past. Why would the news of grief and loss bring out the beast in a person? And by the way, shouldn’t we rather be careful about what we wish for – it could have been anyone on that flight!

The plane could have crashed into one of the tank farms or some buildings with devastating consequences for perhaps tens to hundreds of others on the ground.  One of the most overlooked aspects of such tragedy is the bravery of the pilots who in most cases go down fighting to ensure that the collateral damage to those on the ground is as little as possible. That must be one of the most heroic things anyone can do - for in those splits the pilots can make or mar the lives of many.

Death is the great equalizer of men. It hovers around like a hawk waiting to swoop on the little chicks while the mother hen is distracted. 

In my article of the 25th of September 2013, I discussed the admirable response of Kenyans on Twitter (KOT) to the terror attack at Westgate Mall. Times of pain, hurt and loss are times when those of us who are fortunate to be alive should take a moment to reflect on the essence of life. As the lights extinguished on those unfortunate lives anguish, grief and emptiness filled many homes.

What do we do with and on social media when we hear of tragedy (whether real or imagined)? Where are the tweets from religious organizations offering prayers and tangible support? Where are the civil society organizations? Aren’t they on social media? Why the silence during such periods? When would the social media pages of corporate organizations begin to show “empathy” and “sensitivity” to the plight of the community? After all it is possible that some of the victims or their family members could be their prospective or existing clients. It might be time to rethink the concept and execution of corporate social responsibility on social media.

How many of us (individually and collectively) have used social media during these situations to mobilize our friends, colleagues, employees, members and network to the scenes of mishaps or to hospitals and other emergency rehabilitation centres? How many have prayed for the victims/suspected victims and their families?

I cannot fail to commend the Lagos State Government, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and the National Association of Resident Doctors (Lagos State University Teaching Hospital and Lagos University Teaching Hospital chapters). The doctors partly suspended their on-going national strike action and mobilized key units within both hospitals well before the surviving victims were rushed in.

In the immediate aftermath of the Dana Airlines plane crash in 2012, Lagos State had demonstrated uncommon leadership through its well thought out and executed disaster recovery efforts. It is quite reassuring that over the last years, the state’s flagship hospital, the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital has become one of the most reliable health institutions equipped to handle such crisis.

This time around, the leadership of key related functions in the state such as emergency management, healthcare, transportation, security and special duties were physically present to coordinate the recovery and support efforts from the crash site to the hospital. NEMA’s social media accounts were abuzz with real time updates of the progress of the rescue efforts and helped clarified a lot of the confusion that was fast spreading.  Other governments, public institutions and member associations ought to learn a thing or two from the responsiveness of these organizations.  

It is commonly acknowledged that the constants in life are taxes and death. However Stephen R. Covey the respected and influential author suggested that the 3 constants in life are Change, Choice and Principles. We have to constantly adapt to the ever changing forms of media. To adapt, we must make choices and take action. These actions would be guided by our value system…our principles.

Everyone has a digital footprint. At times like these when you feel the urge to make light out of someone’s dying breath…how would you use or not use social media?

Click to Read the same article in my column in the Punch Newspapers

Dr Anderson Uvie-Emegbo

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