On Facebook, Bad With the Good

Like many women these days, Aran Hissam, 35, of Melbourne, Fla., posted the news that she was pregnant on Facebook. On the morning of an ultrasound last year, she debated on the site whether to learn the baby’s sex, musing “to peek or not to peek?”When she failed to post an update later that day, friends started to contact her. Ms. Hissam decided to return to Facebook to share the news that her unborn baby, a girl, had been found to have fetal hydrops and given no chance of survival.

Posting bad news on a social media site eases the pain for the bearer of bad news and the recipient, because knowing what to say to someone who has just told you bad news can be one of the most socially fraught situations. “If you put the news on Facebook, you’re also maximizing the recipient’s comfort, so they can process the information on their own time,” said Dr. Janet Sternberg, assistant professor of communication and media studies at Fordham University. “It’s really hard to break bad news without crying or falling apart. But we can share painful news in less painful ways.”

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