Using Social Media to Deal with Personal Tragedy
From May-September 2016, I battled cancer. The cancer had formed from prior radiation therapy for a previous bout of breast cancer in 2012. The 2016 cancer was called angiosarcoma. Treatment for this angiosarcoma was drastic surgery to cut the cancer out of my right breast. Luckily, I would not need chemo or more radiation.
One of the ways I endured the stress and the strain of the cancer was to use Facebook to communicate my fears, my progress and my triumphs with my Facebook friends. Using Facebook to deal psychologically with my cancer was mostly a positive experience.
For instance, whenever I had a scan or a treatment coming up, I shared that information with my Facebook friends. They provided great support and helped me get through the tortuous waiting periods that come with anticipating test results.
It is important to note that two of my Facebook friends were cancer survivors. They helped me to keep the faith that survival was possible.
In a nutshell, getting 93 “likes” for having a negative brain scan was a real upper. The day I found out that the cancer hadn’t travelled to my brain was a big technological party on the Internet.
On the other hand, I did have a hugely negative happening on Facebook during this time with cancer, and it was my own fault.
I had just learned that I needed a biopsy to investigate the bright strawberry-colored spot on my breast. A couple of days later, I received a punch biopsy and was told that I’d know the results in three days.
Three days came and went, and no news.
So not having heard from anyone, I called the hospital and asked for the results.
“Benign,” a voice I didn’t recognize told me.
I hung up silently thanking God that I had made it out of this one.
Of course, I jumped on Facebook and published the great news!
“The spot on my breast is benign!” I wrote.
Good wishes and hallelujahs began pouring in. I loved the instantaneous well wishes that
social media could provide. Facebook was the best thing since French toast.
OK. All was copacetic until two days later when I received a phone call from my cancer surgeon who gave me the news that the spot was NOT benign; it was malignant.
“What?” I said.
“The cancer is malignant. We’ve got to operate.”
“Someone told me two days ago that it was benign.”
“I don’t know.”
“Well, they were wrong. I’m sorry, Laura. It’s malignant.”
What else was there to do but to get on Facebook and give everyone the bad news?
Friends couldn’t believe how an employee could be so wrong. One friend said, “You’ve been on an unjust roller coaster ride. We’re so sorry this is happening to you.”
Another friend said, “That secretary should be fired!”
Yes, the whole thing was outrageous. But even though the new news was a bitter pill, it was still true, and I had to swallow it.
Long story short, I was successfully operated on and convalesced nicely. The surgeon got clean margins; they got it all. All my subsequent body scans were negative. I was going to live!
I had survived cancer twice, and the second time, I wasn’t alone. I was with 243 friends on Facebook who prayed for me, sent me good vibes, cried with me and, in the end, rejoiced with me.
In conclusion, using Facebook to get through a cancer experience was an excellent tool for the most part. The only time Facebook wasn’t a positive tool was when I used this social media to announce false information.
What can be learned from my experience? Be sure the information you’re releasing is true before you send it out into the world.
Otherwise, you might have to take it all back and then spread bad news in its place.
Or worst case scenario, your friends might lose patience with your tale, find it ultimately too dramatic, and unfriend you.
Luckily no one did that to me.
Yeager, L. (2018). Using Social Media to Deal with Personal Tragedy. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 1, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/using-social-media-to-deal-with-personal-tragedy/