Everyone grieves differently. For some, the loss of a loved one is a sacred, private matter. For others, it helps to share the pain. Two nights ago, NPR host Scott Simon’s mother died and he chose to share the experience with his 1.2 million followers on Twitter – in real time.
One tweet read:
Heart rate dropping. Heart dropping.— Scott Simon (@nprscottsimon) July 29, 2013
The heavens over Chicago have opened and Patricia Lyons Simon Newman has stepped onstage.— Scott Simon (@nprscottsimon) July 30, 2013
She will make the face of heaven shine so fine that all the world will be in love with night.— Scott Simon (@nprscottsimon) July 30, 2013
In an interview yesterday, Simon said “I don’t think it’s any less sacred because it was shared with a lot of people. And it must be said, you know, there was a lot of stuff that I didn’t share.” As the host of NPR’s Weekend Edition, Simon is a public figure.
Simon has written about his mother and interviewed her on the air, so she too is a public figure, to a certain degree. But Simon’s very public sharing of his mother’s final days has been greeted with mixed emotions. To some, it was a poetic, son’s farewell, a beautiful tribute that resonated. For others, it was too intimate, exploitative even. Just as social media is changing how we live, it’s also changing how we deal with death.
What do you think of Simon’s 21st century farewell to his mother? Was sharing his mother’s suffering and his own grief a positive thing? Does tweeting about death make it less – or perhaps more – sacred? And if these weren’t public figures we were talking about, what difference would that make?
Karen North, Director of the Annenberg Program on Online Communities at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism
Alan Regenberg, the Bioethics Research Manager at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics
David Isay, StoryCorps founder and president