Tony became paralyzed from the neck down following a severe stroke in 2005 which left him with an inability to use almost all voluntary muscles except for his eyes. The syndrome leaves sufferers with a perfectly functioning mind but nonetheless in need of constant support. In his Twitter campaign, Nicklinson expresses his suffering and battles for his wish to be euthanized.
The technology used to send his tweet is far more sophisticated than a simple ‘blink once for yes, twice for no’ system that we’ve seen in the past. Instead, the software tracks his eye movements over an online keyboard and translates this into text on screen.
As a technology, this is nothing particularly new; we’ve seen it a number of times in recent years’ headlines. What is new however is its application. It is an amazing thing that a man who would otherwise be reduced to simple yes/no responses is now able to communicate with supporters across the world, and Nicklinson’s right-to-die court battle is strengthened by some 37,000 followers on his Twitter page.
His Twitter usage
Since his first tweet, Nicklinson has become hugely active on the micro blogging site posting multiple new comments every hour. Whilst it seems clear that his main purpose on Twitter is to publicize his struggle, he also shows a more light-hearted nature through comments about Father’s Day and his dog’s flatulence. He recently commented on his disbelief that so many people could find his life interesting, but his gaining over 2000 followers in 24 hours begs to differ.
The online campaign has once again drawn attention to the power of Twitter and ‘trending’. Comments on video hosting website YouTube have occasionally been condemning of his wishes, but the phenomenal support witnessed demonstrates that a lot of good can come from social networking and that it’s not all scare stories.
Nicklinson’s future is as of yet unknown. His court case continues and in reply to speculation that his Twitter fame may help to restore his love of life, he commented simply that he’ll hear the judgment first and decide on that second.