Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Connected Voices for Chris O'Brien RIP

Despite reading connection stories on a daily basis
as part of my work, this must-tell story epitomises
the power of connection, technology, expression
and the human spirit.

On Friday morning, 5th June, I awoke to the news
that reknowned cancer surgeon Chris O'Brien lost
his battle with his own cancer at the age of 57. He
was a much respected and admired humanitarian
who gave his patients the second chance at life
that he didn't have. Saddened by the news,I felt
the need to express my thoughts and feelings via
a condolence message to his family and friends.
At that point in time, no sites had been set-up
on the internet as far as I could see so I turned
to Facebook.

Upon searching the groups pages, I found a
tribute page had been set-up by 16 year-old
Rhys O'Shea from Camden a few days before
Chris's death as a way for his generation and
all others, to remember Chris by posting their
thoughts and feelings after joining the group.
There were 20 members and 11 posts when
I joined on Thursday. Within two days, the
group grew to 300 members and 120 posts.
I contacted Rhys (who I'd never met) to see
whether he needed some help with managing
the group. He was overwhelmed by the response
and asked me to help him administer the group.

By Monday, 8th June, it had almost 3,000 members
and 300 condolence messages. As per the writing
of this blogpost on Wednesday, 10th June around
midday - the day before Chris's State Funeral -
the group has 6,350 members and 570 posts
commemorating Chris and his great work.

There are now other Facebook groups and a formal
internet site where people can leave condolence
messages. I think it's amazing that people will flock en
masse to an online place where they can express
themselves so freely about someone and something
that they really care about.

And all it took to connect all their voices was a
16 year-old who thought to build a simple Facebook
page for a hero.

Prof. Chris O'Brien's Group page is: