Bad News Shared via Social Media

Yesterday, April 9, 2015, pop megastar Taylor Swift informed the public of some unfortunate and truly upsetting news about her family. Her mother Andrea has been diagnosed with an unidentified cancer at the age of 57. Taylor explained that she asked her mother to get a health screening back in December since she hadn’t done so in some time, only to later find out about the illness. Below is the statement released by Taylor on the popular blogging site, Tumblr.

Just so you know…

Hey guys,

I’m writing to you with an update I wish I wasn’t giving you, but it’s important and I’m used to sharing important events in my life with you. Usually when things happen to me, I process them and then write music about how I feel, and you hear it much later. This is something my family and I thought you should know about now.

For Christmas this year, I asked my mom that one of her gifts to me be her going to the doctor to get screened for any health issues, just to ease some worries of mine. She agreed, and went in to get checked. There were no red flags and she felt perfectly fine, but she did it just to get me and my brother off her case about it.

The results came in, and I’m saddened to tell you that my mom has been diagnosed with cancer. I’d like to keep the details of her condition and treatment plans private, but she wanted you to know.

She wanted you to know because your parents may be too busy juggling everything they’ve got going on to go to the doctor, and maybe you reminding them to go get checked for cancer could possibly lead to an early diagnosis and an easier battle… Or peace of mind in knowing that they’re healthy and there’s nothing to worry about. She wanted you to know why she may not be at as many shows this tour. She’s got an important battle to fight.

Thank you for caring about my family so much that she would want me to share this information with you.
I hope and pray that you never get news like this.

Love you.
Taylor

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Obviously, I am sending my prayers towards her, her family, and especially her mother during this difficult time. Cancer is a difficult disease to battle and to witness a loved one battling it is unimaginable. As I read the release, I thought that she made a wise decision to personally release the information rather than let it get twisted and turned by media. I also think that it was a respectful way to raise awareness about cancer and the proper precautions that are necessary in order to catch the disease at an early stage. It is a terribly difficult topic to discuss, but one that people should certainly take into consideration.

However, the post also led me to reflect on some other ways in which people use social media websites to inform others of less fortunate news. As I did some research, I stumbled upon a Mashable article from a few days ago that DEFINITELY relates to the topic of bad news on social media. You may not believe it, but you can legally send someone divorce papers on Facebook. 

Let me repeat: you can actually divorce someone by way of FACEBOOK. What has our world come to?

To dive in to the topic a bit further, its not quite what it seems. The divorce doesn’t take place by clicking some things on the social media site and changing your relationship status. Basically, in this particular case, Ellanora Baidoo, a nurse from Brooklyn, NY, had exhausted all other means of trying to reach her estranged husband Victor Sena Blood-Dzraku. After attempting to reach him via phone and email, as well as trying to locate him through a private detective, Baidoo had really no other options than Facebook. So, when in court, she had to prove that the other more conventional means of informing your partner that you would like a divorce had been exhausted.

Anyhow, this really led me to reflect on where our society is headed in terms of complete integration with social media. If people are beginning to use social media as the main way of contact between friends, family, and in this case enemies, what may happen to the more traditional methods like the telephone? Divorce: will there soon be an app for that?

If you would like to read more about the legalities surrounding what can be served on Facebook, check out the Mashable article.

11 comments

  1. Sad to hear about Taylor Swift’s mother. I pray for a full recovery.

    I think we really are using social media as a main way of contact. The other day my mother and I had a conversation about my friends from undergrad and how they were doing. She figured I knew so much about their happenings through occasional phone calls, like she keeps up with her friends. However, I knew all of this because of their social media updates and conversations we have had over social media. I think social media has made it even easier to keep people informed, which is a good thing.

    For example, Taylor Swift had an avenue to give the real story to millions of people instantly through social media. Before, she may have had to make a press release or go through other intermediaries to get her message out to such a large crowd. Social media really helps us inform a large group of people at one time, which is a good thing. Just some thoughts.

  2. wallacekwan99 · ·

    Sorry to hear about Miss Swift’s mother. I hope she makes a fastidious and complete recovery.

    I think the use of Social Media for the delivery of bad news is really dependent upon the account owner’s level of comfort. They must be cognizant that the world will be watching
    and be prepared for any kind of reply their post will elicit.

    I don’t think social media will be the main means of communications any time soon, as the divorce case noted that the woman had exhausted all other conventional means and there was no other way for her to serve her estranged hubby his divorce papers. And with regards to Miss Swift, social media is perhaps the only way that celebrities of her caliber can interact with her fans. And Winton made a great point on how celebrities can leverage social to delivery the news how they want it before the tabloids/paparazzi have their way with it.

    As for the telephone, I don’t think it will ever go away completely. Perhaps Skype and video conferencing will become more prevalent. There are business situations and personal circumstances where voice is necessary to communicate details in conversation that text just cannot. Again, interesting article about how Social Media can be utilized as a tool of convenience to delivery less than ideal news.

  3. I agree with you that it was smart of Taylor Swift to release this tragic news herself. I think SM is a useful space to discuss this type of news and a great way for people to send their support in return. A few weeks ago I found out through Facebook that a girl from my high school was diagnosed with Leukemia. Since then, she has used Facebook and a personal blog page to keep hundreds of people updated on her progress. In addition, it seems like a unique way for her to vent her frustration about the disease and to build her courage to battle it.

    I read the Mashable article as well and think it seems ludicrous that it’s possible to divorce someone online like that. Reflecting on your point about social media becoming the main way of contact made me realize how I myself have integrated into this. I definitely use it to keep in touch with people a lot more than phone calls like I used to do, mostly because of convenience. Overall, great post hitting a lot of interesting subjects!

  4. Nice post. I think the question is deeper question is, if we think telephone and email are appropriate ways to share bad news, why wouldn’t social media be? It’s not all that different from the others, we’re just more familiar with them.

  5. Interesting post. I think that what you said about Taylor Swift wanting to beat the media to the story is very true, allowing her to utilize her social media accounts to get the truth out there as well as raise awareness about cancer and its possible treatment plans if caught early. I think that her post was a very mature way of dealing with such devastating news, trying to use her position as a celebrity to raise awareness about the prevalence of cancer in today’s society.

    As far as the more general topic of sharing bad news over social media, I have found that social media can be a real tool if used in the proper manner. For example, when there was a death in my family over the summer, it was easier for my family to post the wake and funeral plans through Facebook so that we can reach friends all over the country who might want to pay their respects. This also made it much easier on my family by limiting the number of difficult phone calls we had to make to family and friends (granted all of our direct family was given a phone call, this is a method I am talking about for more indirect friendships). Great post, I would like to talk more about this in class!

  6. I agree and think Taylor did a good job of notifying the public. I also really respect her decision to keep the details of her mother’s condition private. There can be so much oversharing and I pray that the media respects this boundary and allows her mother to recover in privacy. I have noticed over the years that many of my Facebook friends have used the medium to notify a large group of people of an illness and give updates in order to keep people informed. I have noticed different Facebook statuses that discuss a difficult time in someones life and I tend to have mixed feelings about it. I have seen people over share, but who am I to judge how someone copes with the difficulties in their life. Great post, it is an good topic to reflect on.

  7. There are certainly somethings that should be kept private and off of social media, but depending on the make-up of your network on social media, it seems like an appropriate place to share important information about your life, even if it is negative. That being said, I’m a relatively private person, so this wouldn’t be the case for me, but I think Taylor Swift is navigating her circumstances well.

  8. I remember seeing the #PrayForMamaSwift tag on twitter yesterday and having mixed thoughts on sharing such personal information on social media. But, much like @pedersenkelly, I consider myself to be a more private person and this would not be the right strategy for my handling of circumstances, but it seems to be right for Taylor. However, some of the language in her blog post is very interesting; in particular, “this is something my family and I thought you should know about now.” I halted on that line as it raises the interesting question of feeling a responsibility to share personal information with fans just because it’s been done in the past, upon happier circumstances. Obviously, as a musician who speaks through her music, Taylor is someone who benefits from sharing her experiences with others, but I do question why her fan base seems to have taken on the status of family members who need to be included in the happenings of the Swift family. I would be so curious to learn of the conversation that occurred between Taylor and her family before/about sharing such news and about their concerns of sharing such sensitive information.

  9. I really enjoyed your post! I think that we have come to a point where social media has become a completely acceptable way to share both good and bad news. In this case, Taylor swift has such a strong following and fan base that she constantly communicates with on a daily basis, making her connection to her fans extremely personal. The fact that she shared this personal and sad news on Tumblr just adds to her already strong relationship with her fans. Although many people would prefer to keep news like this private, I think it helps a lot of people who are going through hard times to know that others are thinking of them. Celebrities often seem so perfect on the surface, but when they are able to share with us on a deep level like this, it makes them more human and relatable. Nice job!

  10. Interesting Post. I hope Taylor Swift’s mother is successful in her battle with cancer. I think SM should definitely be viewed as a platform to deliver bad news. I feel like there is still a stigma regarding delivering bad news over SM, like how in the past phones and email isn’t the way to deliver bad news. I think T Swift did a great job in delivering it in a way that traditional media won’t put more pressure to her and her family at this terrible time.

  11. I agree with @pedersenkelly in that I as well am a fairly private person and would most likely not share extremely personal information by means of social media. That being said, I think that due to the very public nature of the life that Taylor Swift lives, she navigated her circumstances very well by getting her message out on tumblr. I hope and pray that her mother has a speedy recovery.

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