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The butterfly effect

By Sian Pryce - posted Tuesday, 11 December 2012


It’s time to take stock people. Yesterday on of my life-long friends “torched” me on Facebook for a comment that was to me harmless fun and a playful dig. The details I won’t bore you with, but suffice to say, her response was something to the effect, “this is social media, Sian and I do not like you making a public joke out of my whereabouts”.

I felt hurt, and a bit pissed-off, but stupid to have not realised it would upset her. In an age where our media technology has by far surpassed our psycho-social skills and emotional maturity, we are in need of a speedy ethical self-brake.

Across the globo-sphere the daily opinion and chatter ride on face-twit, blogs, and online newspapers has us in a very tenuous position: what you put out there can come back to haunt you and worse, change the course of your psychological and physical destiny and those who share your world.

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There has been number of cases recently where social media as well as being Judge and Jury has also had more catastrophic and fatal consequences. I could write a page full of teenage names that have attempted suicide or succeeded due to online bullying in Australia and around the world. My friend’s son in Melbourne recently downed all his meds and a bottle of champagne after being humiliated continually on Facebook. He is 16.

The recent hospitalisation of New Zealand T.V. Presenter Charlotte Dawson after relentless online slagging is a reminder that not all are teenagers with limited life experience and immature frontal lobes. An Australian father grieving the death of his daughter in a car crash with a banana truck had to fight to get a mock tribute page which had jokes on it about bananas, off the internet, days before her funeral. What the hell is going on? My Mum used to say, the definition of a joke, or prank is if the recipient enjoys it too. How many of us would qualify?

Jacintha Saldanha, the British nurse is a recent extreme symptom of this painful traumatic ripple effect. It highlights possibly, the disparity between the cross socio-cultural nuances and values, of Australia, India and Great Britain but also a global community not yet educated in the art of communal discretion, accountability, foresight and respect. That is: we all need to grow a conscience and put our brains in gear, not ride through life perpetually in neutral, blissfully ignoring the sometimes cataclysmic cycle of cosmic cause and effect.

Just like the mathematician, Edward Lorenz, and his “Butterfly Theory” expound, something as simple as two young Aussies flapping their jaws in Sydney can cause a tidal wave of pain and humiliation in London.

Jacintha committed suicide a few days after the fallout from her passing on a prank call from two Aussie radio presenters to the nurse caring for The Duchess of Cambridge in hospital. Why? We may never know, the full constellation of events in Jacintha‘s life that culminated in this terrible tragedy. She may have already been suffering and this tipped her over the edge, nothing happens in a vacuum.

She may not have also received the support and care from the hospital management she needed. But do not think for a nanosecond the massive world response to this human error had no part. The prank was replayed over and over by the delighted ignorant Gen Y hosts, they tweeted about it, it was on face book, and it became international headline news. The New York Times wrote about it, and no doubt Indian Newspapers grabbed it too- anathema for her Indian relatives.

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From the Palace to Punjab, everyone was talking about it. The Palace [not the immediate royals] and the hospital while denying publicly they had neither complained nor disciplined the nurse would no doubt have had “egg on their face “over the incident.

The Monarchy is an age old institution where prestige, protocol and maintaining a facade of decorum, dignity, and historical tradition, are imperative. This particular hospital was the prestigious “anointed” choice for the royals’ care. They both needed to go into damage control. They had their respective agendas, as well as ultimately their reputations to uphold. This breach of security, and consequentially “bad” press around the worldly wires would have been played out within a typhoon of talks, phone calls, emails and meetings over the incident, maybe not blaming her directly and overly, but certainly, feeding her anxiety, regret, humiliation and embarrassment.

80% of the British public revere respect and love the tradition and institution of the Monarchy even today. Security in the wake of the tragic history of Princess Diana being hounded by the press, photos of the royals topless, toe sucking, naked parties, wearing Nazi costumes, and most recently having their phones hacked make security, privacy and respect much more at the forefront of the minds of those who work with and for “The Firm”. "We are not amused - and we never will be." This was, in the U.K., a big deal guys.

Could those two youngsters hosting the show have known any of this? Nope but, certainly their management, having tucked some years of mature life and business experience under their belts should have. The kids were running the Kindergarten? More likely, the management was negligent.

The problem with media, infotainment and the 24 hour news cycle is it’s a relentless hungry beast which can never be satiated, and unfortunately opinions are like arses - everybody has one. We need to start forward-planning, make ourselves our own personal spread sheets, THINK of all the possible permutations before we act out of anger, frustration, money, ratings, ego or just plain not thinking it through. Not everything we do or say will end in tears, and sometimes we may not mind if it does.

However, when the consequence can be almost more than we can live with, when our own and someone else’s psycho-emotional or physical wellbeing could solely rest on the outcome…then proceed with caution. It could be a profoundly life changing moment for you. You may never be the same person again.

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About the Author

Sian Pryce-Chisholm is a mother, teacher, presenter and actor and lives in Melbourne.

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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