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Dec. 18 2009 - 11:24 am | 346 views | 0 recommendations | 8 comments

Mom Announces Child’s Death on Twitter

I can’t imagine criticizing the actions of any mother in the moments after her child dies, but apparently a lot of people are taking issue with a Florida woman named Shellie Ross who tweeted her more than 5,400 followers a half hour after her two-year-old son was found at the bottom of her pool.

Not long after that, a firestorm erupted on Twitter, with strangers wondering what kind of mother tweets during a crisis. The debate has been going on for days around the Internet, with critics calling Ross callous (and suggesting that if she had been paying as much attention to her child as she had to her Twitter account, her son would not have come to harm) and supporters (many who know her in real life, and others who have never met her) describing her as a caring mother who reached out to her virtual community during a tragedy. Announcing a Child’s Death on Twitter – Motherlode Blog – NYTimes.com.

My heart goes out to Ross, a military mom with a popular blog, mostly because of her tragic loss but also because she is, as noted on the Motherlode, experiencing the dark side of opening up to a virtual “community.” Even in moments of utter despair and misfortune, people who don’t know you or even read your posts will not hesitate to use their anonymity to take you down.


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  1. collapse expand

    Good for you Karen for standing up for this woman.

  2. collapse expand

    I just finished reading Ayelet Waldman’s “Bad Mother”. This story confirms her thesis that no matter what mothers do or don’t do, the Mommy Police will find a way to cast aspersions and guilt. We women are our own worst enemies. God help us if we actually try to listen to our own internal compasses instead of being led like sheep by the mandates of current conventions. We all need to do a better job of telling people to mind their own business. Admittedly, however, she opened the can of worms with a Twitter pronouncement, and all the community chatter that implies.

    • collapse expand

      You’re right, if you want to have strangers follow you on twitter, you have to be prepared for them to react to what you’re doing and saying. there’s another irony here, however, and it’s that critics of twitter often say that all the content is trivial…and here is someone with something truly life-changing, rare and awful that she is twittering about and she is criticized for doing that.
      Of course some of the comments focus on the distraction factor; that if she hadn’t been twittering so much she would have been more careful about where her toddler was. But that seems a bit much as no one knows what the true circumstances were and there is no parent who never takes her eyes off her child for even a second.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  3. collapse expand

    Wow. I have mixed feelings about what this mom did. On one hand, it’s a quick and efficient way to let her friends and followers know about this life-changing event. On the other, she likely learned quickly, as I did, how quick anonymous posters are to criticize.
    I know what she’s going through (to a much, much lesser extent) because I posted recently about the barrage of negative comments I received on an article I (naively) thought most people would agree with because it made so much sense! http://trueslant.com/hilaryshenfeld/2009/12/14/readers-show-no-mercy-in-online-comments/

  4. collapse expand

    I’ve read all the commentary that we can’t be too critical here, we don’t know all the circumstances, we don’t know how you’d react in such a situation, people react to tragedy by doing familiar things, which for this woman is Tweeting. But it sure seems to me this woman left her 6yo and 2yo kid unattended while she Tweeted, then learned one of them was in grave condition, and went right back to Twitter. I can understand going online days later to deal with your grief, but this has the sound of a reality-era sociopath who was thirsting for attention as her son lay dying.

  5. collapse expand

    I cannot imagine tweeting half an hour later if one of my own kids had just died. Much as I’d like to be high minded about this, the story just makes me sick to my stomach- that level of detachment is just incomprehensible to me. I know- I’m judging despite my best efforts.
    But- the loss of one’s own child deserves a little more dignity than Twitter.

  6. collapse expand

    What’s next — eulogy by Twitter? I also find this appalling.

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    About Me

    I’ve been a tour guide in the Soviet Union, a newspaper reporter in Florida; an editor/writer/magazine publisher in Russia; a marketing director for Men's Health; a book reviewer for USAToday; and am currently a consultant for the United Nations Development Program. I'm a married mother of two living in a suburban house with a piano, a dog, and a refrigerator held together by a bungee cord. Unlike the people in charge of my children’s school, I think kids should be allowed to play on monkey bars even though some slip off and get hurt. Parenting is not an extreme sport; this blog is about trying to find balance.

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