Tweeting through a crisis
The sad tale of a Florida mother who posted a message on Twitter just half an hour after calling 911 to report she'd found her 2-year-old son at the bottom of a swimming pool (where he had in fact drowned) raises all kinds of questions. Chief among them: Is there any way to justify tweeting while your child's life hangs in the balance?
My knee-jerk reaction is a vehement "no." The only place for that mom to be, IMHO, was by her child's side.
But others feel otherwise. Many have spoken up in defense of 37-year-old Shellie Ross, saying that she had cultivated a large group of on-line correspondents she considered friends and naturally turned to them for support and prayers during her moment of crisis.
That this matter is controversial comes as no surprise to Johns Hopkins University's Patricia Wallace, author of The Psychology of the Internet . "The issue," she says, "is that we have all these new tools, and we blunder a lot in using them because the norms aren't set." Those norms, whether they apply to telegraph use a century ago, cell-phone use in the past decade or social media in 2010, "take a long time to settle out," Wallace says.
"It's sad," Wallace adds, "but 'Twitter' -- the very name -- makes it sound trivial. But the fact is that people use these things [such as Twitter and Facebook] to form connections that used to be made in person."
Wallace understands why Ross tweeted as she did. "The minute she posted something, she must have just been deluged with condolence messages," she says.
Apparently she was. And I do hope that that outpouring was helpful to her.
Still, I guess I'm not sufficiently engaged in Twitter to really understand Ross's actions.
Part of me -- a big part of me -- hopes I never am.
What's your reaction to this situation? Record your comments below, and please vote in today's poll.
Jennifer LaRue Huget
January 7, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories: Family Health , Psychology , Social Media
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