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How Facebook Is Changing the Way We Share Bad News

How Facebook Is Changing the Way We Share Bad News

I don’t check my personal e-mail or news websites while I’m at work all day. But the first thing I did when I got home Friday evening was log into Facebook, and that’s where I first heard the news of the devastating Newton, CT school shooting. For many people, Facebook, formerly a place to check out classmates and post photos from parties, has become a multipurpose communication device to share the good, the bad and the ugly. And sometimes it gets really ugly.

Facebook makes us feel bad

Plenty of studies have shown that Facebook makes us feel bad about ourselves by making other peoples’ lives look better than they really are. But, as people become more comfortable sharing bad news through social media, Facebook can also become a downer as all of our friends’ and acquaintances’ less-than-happy moments are updated minute-by-minute through status posts.

Even worse than genuinely bad news are the whiny, complaining statuses that people post about various life frustrations, such as job woes, roommate conflicts and the ever-present “FML” status for things that, when looked at in perspective, aren’t actually that bad. This constant influx of negativity can put a damper on your own life, and make you more sensitive to conflict and stressful situations.

Younger people tend to spill the beans on Facebook

Being a twenty-something these days basically means broadcasting your entire life on Facebook. My older relatives don’t post nearly as often as my cousins and friends do, and their posts tend to be related to current events or activities they enjoy participating in, rather than personal situations. It’s even possible to see a difference in Facebook usage when there is a relatively small age gap. When my grandpa died two years ago, I didn’t post anything about it on Facebook because I felt that it was too personal. My cousin, who is four years younger than me, wrote a status about him. Which one of us did the right thing? It’s hard to say.

The worst case scenario is that someone shares bad news on Facebook before other key friends or family members are notified. For example, a few weeks ago, one of my friends posted that her dog had died. Her brother was away at school and no one had thought to contact him before the post went up, so he found out about the death of a beloved pet on the internet. Making sure that everyone who is closely involved with a situation is updated before any sharing is done over social media is clearly key.

Is it the best way to share?

This New York Times article suggests that posting bad news, such as a death in the family or impending divorce, may actually be a better way to spread the word, as it allows the receiver of the news to absorb it on his or her own terms and eliminates emotional phone calls or in-person conversations. But some believe that using less personal methods of sharing upsetting news may distance people from their emotions and prevent them from grieving properly.

In some situations, nothing beats the speed and ease of social media. Hurricane Sandy was a great example of this, as people across the eastern seaboard updated Facebook to let friends and family members across the country know that they were okay. As for sharing more personal losses, the jury is still out on whether Facebook is the way to go.

What do you think?

Have you ever shared bad news on Facebook or other social media? Would you recommend it as a good way to get the word out while minimizing emotional encounters? Share your stories in the comments below.


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Andrea Allen

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8:31AM PST on Mar 3, 2013

Also if the people you have on your facebook are complainers, downers, or negative posters.. just delete them? Perhaps it isn't facebook (a tool) that is to blame, but you, for allowing such negative people into your life. instead, try surrounding yourself with happy, positive, forward thinking people. TADA! Problem solved. Now, are there any real issues Care2 would like to address?

8:24AM PST on Mar 3, 2013

I love my fb. It keeps me connected to family, foster families id lost, friends and coworkers. I am able to keep up with current events, support local businesses, promote my crafts to sell, ect. It a tool, not a crime. It all depends on how you use it. Some people use it poorly, others use it constructively. If you don't like it, don't use it. But don't judge others who do choose to use it. So teens and young adults have poor communication skills.. so what?!? This is nothing new.

5:24AM PST on Mar 3, 2013

Please use it more constructively

12:59AM PST on Mar 3, 2013

thank you

12:59AM PST on Mar 3, 2013

thank you

12:58AM PST on Mar 3, 2013

thank you

4:40PM PST on Feb 19, 2013

Gave Facebook away.

11:33AM PST on Feb 19, 2013

Never have, do not and never will use FB (even if THEY PAID ME) !!!!!!

My only regret is that it's infuriating to sometimes have to find alternative petitions for a particular cause I want to support ..... but I usually find a way !!!!!!

3:33PM PST on Feb 18, 2013

One reason I won't do Facebook or other similar social media is the thought that it takes away a lot of our personal responsibility and communication with each other. It may be easier to post something as personal as a loved one's death, but it's not necessarily the best choice. If I were to always choose what's easier, I'd miss a lot of personal moments and emotional intimacy that I wouldn't have had. The recipient of the news may have a time to process, but again, the emotional intimacy is lost. Relationships take effort and time and are often messy and uncomfortable. But anything worth it, is.

3:31PM PST on Jan 23, 2013

When my husband suffered a heart attack, it was easier to post on FB rather than call everyone. I had more time at the hospital with my husband and was still able to let everyone know. Those closest to me got a personal call of course. On another note, it seems that FB is the only way I get news about family and friends anymore. It does seem to depersonalize your relationships so there is that drawback.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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