“Wait, I need to get my iPhone.”
It was the middle of the night. I had just regained consciousness after passing out on my back hall staircase. Two medics stood at the foot of the stairs flanking a wheelchair with my name on it.
“We’re leaving now, sir. You’re severely diaphoretic and barely conscious. We need to go.”
“Really, I need my phone.”
The duo lifted me off the stairs, placed me in the chair and hauled me out the back door to the waiting ambulance.
Bummer. I was on my way to the hospital and would be unable to check in, Tweet my condition, or publicly comment on the service I received. People wouldn’t know in real-time, at 3:00 am, my “status.” Not to mention my vitals. Would I be disappointing them? Or doing them a favor?
These days we share just about everything. Where we are, what we’re doing, what we think of a recent event. We editorialize about trends, topics and current events. And we weigh in on the opinions expressed by numerous others, whether professional journalists, respected bloggers, or just friends, fans and followers with their own points of view.
And, we do it in public. For all the world to see, assuming that at least some of them actually care.
But here’s a question. Who really wants to hear your bad news? Do your illnesses, tragedies, and problems make you more transparent and authentic? Or do they simply go beyond the line of appropriate sharing and make people uncomfortable? Let’s say you’re suddenly diagnosed with an incurable disease. Do you Tweet about it to all of your followers? What if you were actually near the end? Should you say goodbye online?
Put yourself on the receiving end. Someone you follow but never met in person posts a Tweet saying they have cancer. Or asks your help in re-tweeting a request for a blood donor. You’ve engaged with this person before. But you don’t really know them. Do you respond? Express sympathy? Lend support? Or make believe you missed the post in your oh so cluttered stream.
We seem to have certain protocols for how we behave in social media. Sharing news of value, participating in meaningful conversations, promoting others who deserve promoting, and revealing just enough personal information to make ourselves appear genuinely human, not just digital. And yes, there have been numerous collective efforts to help people in need. You may have heard the story of Sameer Bhatia, the Silcon Valley entrepreneur in need of a bone marrow transplant for acute myelogenous leukemia who found a match after his partner initiated a social media campaign. But it seems there’s something different when someone else spreads the bad news on your behalf.
There are also a number platforms like Care Bridge and Care Pages to keep family and close friends (as opposed to weak tie friends) up to date on a serious illness or course of treatment. But anyone going to those sites knows their purpose and has opted in to the your illness updates.
The medics rolled me into the ER where they hooked me up to EKGs, automated blood pressure readers, a finger clamp to check my heart rate and an IV.
With a tinge of hope I asked the nurse if any of them were connected to the Internet, you know, so I could auto link their readings to Facebook and Twitter. Alas, it turns out they were not.
So instead I lay staring at those little holes in the ceiling tiles wondering about stuff like this and thinking, well, I can’t use Foursquare and Places to see who else is here. Can’t update my Facebook status. And can’t Tweet with whoever else might be pulling an all nighter eagerly awaiting news of interest.
But hey, maybe I can get a blog post out of it.
Curious what you think.