Social Support during Hard times on Twitter

by MSO

No matter where you are, as long as you have your smart phone with you, you can offer support to a friend in need.

Social networking sites have given internet users the ability to publicly express their thoughts and feelings, to announce new events and incidents occurring in their lives and all with a few clacks of your keys and a click of your mouse. The most well known social media sites are Facebook and Twitter. Twitter (for those who are not yet familiar) is an online social networking and microblogging service where you can send and read short text-based messages of no more than 140 characters. Much of the subject matter on Twitter is meant to be amusing usually cleverly worded puns and jokes however, because of the open range for expression, users can post some powerful messages.

Twitter users tweet about everything and anything but one subject that has gained popularity, which many did not expect to be such a hot topic, is death. Users have begun to talk about their fears of death, mourn those they have lost, and even offer their condolences through Twitter. When someone close to you dies you are now able to notify an entire network of people with one tweet. However of course, anyone who has lost someone close to them deserves to be notified in person ( you wouldn’t want to find out about grandma’s passing from a tweet)

If you are not one to watch televised news broadcasts it is more likely that you heard of the death of Steve Jobs or any other famous person through Twitter. These days countless people get their news from the internet, especially the younger generations. Also there is often a sense of urgency, everything must be quick and to the point so as not to lose the interest of a group of users with short attention spans.

Heather Spohr is an avid blogger and frequent twitter user. When her 17 month old daughter Maddie was experiencing respiratory problems, Heather was able to tweet details of her experience in real time. The day Maddie passed Heather tweeted about her loss and immediately her followers and friends mobilized a movement. The hash tag #Maddie was the #1 streamed topic for several days and as the message of Maddie was spread there was an outpouring of support with many of the tweets urging users to donate to Spohr’s March of Dimes’ efforts. “I remember thinking after she passed that no one would ever really know or care about my daughter, I just couldn’t bear the idea of her not being remembered,” said Spohr, now I know she will be.”

Community is a basic human need and Twitter offers an online community where people can feel a real connection with one another. You may not even personally know everyone who follows you but when you post about something traumatic that happened to you and a flood of people respond and offer sympathy and support you still feel the contentment of having a community behind you. Short meaningful messages can offer just as much support as verbal comments which can sometimes sound insincere in person. Twitter has given its users the ability to maintain a large number of exceptionally meaningful connections.


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