Her heart rate is dropping. Put down the damn phone.

scott simon
Scott Simon.






This man live-tweeted his mother’s death.

Scott Simon, the host of NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday, was sitting by his mother’s bedside in the ICU as she slowly passed away. He was also tweeting throughout the days and hours he spent there: thoughtful, quiet tweets about what his mother was saying, what he was thinking, how his family was responding.






And finally:


In the Mamamia office, everyone had different reactions to hearing that Simon was live-tweeting his mother’s death. Mamamia Rogue Editor Rosie Waterland thought it was a terrible thing. It sat very uncomfortably with her. But MM publisher Mia Freedman strongly disagreed. She thought it was a good thing. Who do you agree with?


Rosie wrote:

Rosie Waterland.
Rosie Waterland.

Something about this just didn’t sit right with me.

Obviously the concept of ‘live-tweeting death’ immediately seems a bit… off. But there are many layers to this, and I found myself internally debating each of them.

At first I felt strange about the fact he had so many followers. The cynical part of me considered that he’s a journalist who understands the value of a good story. After all, this went viral on social media and has now been picked up by news outlets around the world. I didn’t know Scott Simon’s name yesterday – I certainly do today.

BUT – I get that social media can be a source of comfort for some. To have 1.2 million twitter followers supporting you through the grief and sorrow of losing a parent has to be of some comfort.

Then I felt off about the… tact of the whole thing. He mentions in detail (at least, as much detail as Twitter will allow) cradling his mother like a baby, her cries for help… Is that appropriate information to share? Has he considered her dignity when writing those tweets?

BUT – his tweets were also filled with praise, love and honesty, and as a journalist with such a large following, demystifying the process of death will have a positive effect for so many.

Then I felt funny about the fact he was sharing such private information. Live-tweeting death just seems a bit ‘TMI’.

BUT – I myself have written in detail about my tumultuous childhood. The cathartic effect that has for me is something that many don’t understand. I can hardly say my writing a post filled with uncomfortable detail on Mamamia is any different from his tweeting.

So, obviously I’ve debated myself out of all my initial negative reactions. But, there’s one final point that I’m stuck on. One final point that isn’t followed by a ‘but’.

At 9:27am on the 30th of July, Scott Simon tweeted:

“Heart rate dropping. Heart dropping.”

I assume that tweet was shorter than the rest because he was in such a rush to get back to holding his dying mother’s hand. Because in her final moments, as his mother’s heart rate was dropping, he took the time to focus on his twitter and say his mother’s heart rate was dropping.

And that’s what doesn’t sit right with me. Put the damn phone down, Scott. Her heart rate is dropping. Twitter can wait.

Mia wrote:

Mia Freedman
People deal with grief and trauma in different ways. Some retreat from the world. Others turn outwards for comfort. Some seek to block their feelings. Others try to process them by writing or talking. And it’s all OK.

There’s never been a blueprint or any type of sat nav for managing grief. No two people will grieve the same way and that’s OK too. Social media has not changed human nature nor the way we grieve. Private people will remain private while those who need to externalise their feelings will do that too, just on a larger more public scale.

So the fact that Scott Simon live tweeted his mother’s death doesn’t trouble me at all. Clearly, he felt some benefit from sharing the experience. Maybe he was scared and distressed and maybe writing about what was happening made him feel less alone. Less frightened.

The people who follow you on social media choose to do so. It’s a self-selecting audience. If they don’t like what you say they have the instant ability to click away, to unfollow, to delete.

So how is this any different to writing a book or a personal blog post about an intensely personal experience? We’re very good as a culture at celebrating happy things. Engagements, pregnancies, births, job promotions. But when you’re buoyed by good news, you don’t need support nearly as much as you do when you’re reeling from a blow. I’ve always felt that by sharing difficult, painful, distressing experiences, people give a gift to others who have been through the same thing – or who have it waiting for them, unknown, in their future. If Simon found some comfort from friends or strangers during a time of incredible blackness and bleakness, then social media has helped to hold him up in a way that once upon a time, our friends, neighbours and extended family used to do. Times have changed. People haven’t.



Over to you, is live-tweeting while someone is dying okay?


More articles