Tim O'Reilly on Andrew Keen at the Web 2.0 Expo in Berlin
Using the social web, Oslo 25/10

Social media in a time of life crisis

Can social media play a role in a time of life crisis? The answer is a resounding yes, says blogger who abruptly lost his 35-year-old wife and was comforted by the massive show of support from Twitter- and Facebook friends.

I've been meaning to blog about this issue for quite some time now, but I didn't want to treat the subject in a haphazard manner, and the right words seemed to escape me. The particular life crisis digital developer Mads Kristensen describes is a very dramatic and harrowing one. However, it is my experience that social media can be of great help even in what, compared to Mads' story, are quite minor troubles as well, but first anexcerpt from the mentioned post:

Ten days ago my wife suddenly suffered from cardiac arrest in the middle of the night. I called 911 and did, what I could to help here, but it was to no avail. She was taken to hospital and put in an intensive care unit without regaining consciousness.

I was of course in shock. But I got the word out on Twitter. And in a matter of what seemed like a few minutes the first messages of sympathy started to come my way through Twitter and on Facebook, to which I have tied in my Twitter account... It helped me on a personal level... It helped to reach out... My wife sadly died on Saturday October 4. She was 35...  (full post here).

Mads' experience of how reaching out through the social web like this was of great comfort makes perfect sense to me, and I've heard many tales of other bloggers who've found a lot of support from their readers in difficult times. Their troubles have been very different ones though, and I don't want to mix things up by dwelling on the details, but rather just say that: yes, there seems to be a lot of evidence around that this can be of great support, be cathartic even.

Some would of course argue that it's a dangerous thing, something that people may come to regret at a later stage, sharing toomuch of their lives like that, especially when they are going through such upsetting times - I've treated a rather different aspect of this here - but I think times are changing, the culture is changing, and part of what Ben Casnocha

On a personal note, even without the soul-baring, I've often found that when I've been depressed about such things as, well... taxes, the weather, and oh well, taxes... when I've felt like I've been fighting windmills and other impossible obstacles; even wished I had it in me to sit down and give up... social media has been of great comfort.

One minute I've been lost in dark thoughts over some trivial or not so trivial issue, then someone left a funny comment on my blog - forcing me to laugh, forcing me out of whatever dark mood I was in - or I discovered someone blogged about something I wrote, giving it a great new spin and taking it in a direction I had not forseen, or I read a funny tweet or see some heart-warming pictures on Flickr from friends in far-away places... the world becomes so much smaller this way....

Somehow you're more connected than ever: both with people you've never met but feel you "know" through their blogs, and with friends who live in the same city but you just wouldn't be able to check in with so often if it wasn't for Twitter, blogs, and social networking sites...


Hi Kristine,

Thanks for taking this up and for linking to my post. And thanks for your consideration in thinking hard about how to approach this.

I just thought I wanted to add an additonal two cents to the discussion. It's around the soul baring and authenticity.

I think it's worth a thought that while we're arguing openness and transparency, people can still have hard issues about sharing something as important and life changing as what happened to me and my wife. It seems like we're not prepared to walk the extra mile and use these tools to their fullest.

Another funny note is that of all the people I have not heard much from during all of this are a lot of my social media colleagues. I'm ok with that, but I think it's hilarious that you can preach openness and the value of conversation and then totally go in the dark when something like this happens to someone you know. The shallowness in certain quarters are immense.

Finally, I would like to say that my openness has given me a lot of positive feedback - especially from co-workers from where I work. Because while it could have been ackward to have me back in the office and thinking of the right things to say, me being open effectively canned that way of thinking and made it possible to have an open conversation, which was and is truly great.

As for soul baring, well, what happened will forever be part of who I am. So why try to hide it? If people can't respect the positives I'm trying to take from this, it's really their problem - not mine.

So what you are saying is that people have been of great comfort in times of crisis or sadness... not social media.

Just sayin'. :)


But somehow, people sometime find it easier to talk about stuff by way of social media than face to face, and logging on to the world of social media your network becomes more visible and alive to you.

Might not be using the wright words here, but I'm interested in the dynamics at play. I certainly feel much more connected to friends in far-away and not so faw-away places because of social media. I was planning to add this end to my post, but deleted it in the last minute:

Somehow you're more connected than ever: both with people you've never met but feel you "know" through their blogs, and with friends who live in the same city but you just wouldn't be able to check in with so often if it wasn't for twitter, blogs, and social networking sites.

For my own part: I feel more "in touch" and up-to-date with some of my London-friends today, living in Oslo' but reading their blogs and tweets, than what I did when I lived in London and only read about social media. Back then, I found it immensely fascinating, but no way I could find time to actually try it out; I had money to earn, deadlines to keep, hardly found time to see my friends even ....

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