How we communicate death and illness with social media

The way we communicate about serious illness and death in our private lives has been utterly transformed by social media. Using Facebook, text and even Twitter, as well as reliable old email, we take our most urgent and affecting news and send it on its digital way, barely stopping to absorb its deep impact on us, let alone the recipients.

Some of it is miraculous: Toronto publicist Riannon John masterminded an online communication strategy three years ago when her well-connected mother, Judith John, an executive at the Sick Kids Foundation, underwent emergency life-threatening brain surgery. With the click of the Send key, Riannon was able to relay news of her condition to family and the hordes of her mother’s friends at the same time.

This meant no hurt feelings about who was the first to know (yes, people do get into snits about where they’re ranked in the pecking order) not to mention disseminating accurate, nonsensational information that isn’t mangled by a distraught phone tree.




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