In the most recent edition of Grazia, there was an article that caught my eye besides the usual attention grabbing dresses of Lily Allen and Lady Gaga- it possessed the headline, “I tweet about lunch, so why shouldn’t I tweet about my miscarriage”. Why shouldn’t she, indeed?
I am talking about Penelope Trunk, 42, a career driven, successful woman who recently tweeted about the loss of her baby during a board meeting.
Since this, she has received death threats from people all over the world ranging from calls of narcissism, to adolescents claiming that she is a “disgusting woman”. But why? Is she right to have tweeted such a personal matter on a open, public space for any one of her 20,000 followers to have read? Well, surely, the answer must be yes. Did she expect such animosity and disgust? Probably not.
When such personal and distressing matters are brought out into the open, people often shy away from them. Perhaps her manner was brutal. Her wording honest. But if you choose to follow someone on Twitter you are choosing to be a party to their lives, in some respects. Whether you follow them for links, information, dietary habits, love advice or dating hopes, you follow them in the understanding that they may say things that you don’t agree with.
As Trunk rightly says in her blog, Penelope Trunk’s Brazen Careerist, “Throughout history, the way women have gained control of the female experience is to talk about what is happening, and what it’s like. We see that women’s lives are more enjoyable, more full, and women are more able to summon resilience when women talk openly about their lives.” Tweeting her misfortune to an audience that have signed up to listen could have been seen as some comfort to Trunk. In a board meeting, where no-one knew what was happening to her, suddenly there were people all over the world who did. It was her body, her pain and her decision to tell people. Some people enjoy talking to others about their problems, it alleviates their pain and allows them to displace their feelings in order to get on with their daily lives. In this case, her work.
Unfortunately for Trunk, the title of her blog and this tweet will now lead to people attacking her for being unfeminine, too career orientated to have a family and selfish. But really, the only crime she is guilty of, if any, is being too honest.
This for me, is a clear lesson in who we should follow on Twitter. We should choose to follow people very carefully. It should be people whose lives we want to know about. The people that will inform of us of things we would like to hear. Unlike Facebook, it should not be used as a popularity contest, but a tool for encouraging useful conversation and sharing information.
Trunk’s advice for people who don’t want to know about her life is easy, “Don’t log on”.