There are moments in time which are so huge, so shocking, that you’ll always remember where you were when you heard the news.
Just for a split second the world seems to grind to a halt as your brain comprehends the gravity of the celebrity death, atrocity or nature disaster.
Princess Diana’s death on August 31 1997 was one of those moments.
But things were different 20 years ago. This was a time when just 10 per cent of the UK population used the internet at home and a smartphone was a landline capable of storing the numbers of your 10 nearest and dearest.
News articles this week have featured people recalling how they learnt of the death of The People’s Princess. Some on that summertime Sunday morning were listening to the radio over coffee, some read about it in the special 6am edition newspapers, some were told by friends as they made their way to church.
In today’s supercharged digital media world, how primitive it seems that there was a time well within living memory when news wasn’t instantly available to almost every citizen in the country at the swipe of a thumb. To a certain extent, the onus was on you to seek out the news by picking up a paper or watching the TV at the right time.
Had Princess Diana died at the same time, in the same place but two decades on, the answer to the question ‘where were you when you heard the news?’ would surely have been in bed or at the breakfast table for the overwhelming majority.
Many would’ve woken in the night to a news alert or a stream of WhatsApp messages. And even those wise enough to switch their phones off while they sleep would’ve been overwhelmed with social media notifications as soon as they put in their phone passcode. After all, a recent study found 74 per cent of people check their phone either in bed or during breakfast time – and that figure rockets to 94 per cent for 18 to 24 year-olds.
Take Bruce Forsyth’s death just a couple of weeks ago. Within seconds of the family’s announcement it had been Tweeted, Instagrammed, Pinned, Snapped and Facebooked countless times.
Within minutes there were videos in homage to Britain’s favourite Saturday night entertainer, and within hours there were 1,000-word pieces about his life.
We don’t just read, see and hear news now – we consume it, and we do it by the bucket load.
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