Gap years are all about getting some real-life experience after three years of study and squalor, before the grinding reality of earning a living in the corporate world begins. And that’s certainly what Eleanor Hawkins found. Now back home after her gap year experiences that involved a chilly bout of self-expression on a mountain top and a few nights on, or near, Death Row… she is indeed older, wiser, and very much more experienced. She’s been taught a lesson. But has she taught us some lessons too?
The media coverage of how this 24-year-old ended her gap year have indeed highlighted how the media operates today.
Lesson One: Nothing is Secret. Before twitter, very few people would have known about the 10 trekkers who stripped on Mt Kinabalu, South East Asia’s highest peak. Even putting a photo on Facebook might not have done it. But blogger Emil Kaminski who happened to have a large online following from his base in Canada was among the party, and his blog made it go viral. Instantly, it was completely out of the control of the people involved… and instantly on the picture desks of every news outlet in the world.
Lesson Two: Don’t Look Like A Criminal. Going to and from the court Eleanor and her co-accused hid their faces from the cameras. It didn’t look great. It didn’t stop the papers from publishing full-face photos anyway.
Lesson Three: A full and frank apology works wonders. When Eleanor Hawkins eventually arrived home she did exactly the right thing: stood in front of the cameras, with her supportive parents, apologised profusely and with dignity, and took no further questions.
I suspect the story will now go away. Meanwhile, Emil Kaminski continued tweeting from his cell. Because the confinement wasn’t entirely solitary. He found high-speed broadband wifi.