Why Bloggers Tweet Tragedy

Standing helplessly, watching her home and all her worldly possessions and treasures burn, Monica Bielanko did what many people would do — in shock and agony, she reached out to her friends.


Her friends responded as most friends do — their hearts broke over their friend’s suffering and they rallied to help her.

But then, people who were not her friends, people who don’t give a crap about her or her family, started to fling their judgement. “How dare she?” “What kind of a mother?” “What kind of an irresponsible person?”

And as I sit at my laptop, watching it all go down, I am completely confused. “Really??? A woman’s house burns down, as she watches with her family from their car, and you are gonna attack her for sending THREE tweets out to her friends — to the community that loves, follows, and supports her, to the place where she lives her life as a writer and artist?”

I am mystified by people judging and attacking one another at the best of times. But at the worst of times? It makes me want to throw up. Seriously people, seriously???

How does it affect YOU how someone chooses to express themselves during a personal tragedy? Some may cry. Some may withdraw. Some may reach out. How can you judge that?

As for the argument — didn’t she have anything better to do in those moments as she watched her life engulfed in flames? Let me ask you, have you ever stood watching something burn?

Have you ever had unexpected tragedy rip through your world, leaving you stunned and helpless. I have. I have stood there, a bystander to my own life unraveling. And you can’t do anything.

It wasn’t like the firefighters were handing her one end of a fire house and saying, “Come on lady — get off Twitter! We need you to put out this fire!”

No. She was watching, helpless from her family’s car. And she called out three short sentences to her friends. She expressed herself in her language, in her world, in her community.

Offline people can’t understand a personal blogger’s decision to reveal themselves online. Many online people can’t understand it either.

But a personal blogger expresses and shares her life through words, photos, stories. It is her medium. It is her community. It is her healing.

We don’t all make the same decisions.

Even Susan and I, identical twins and both bloggers, discussed if we would tweet in the same situation. Susan said she might not. I said I most definitely would. I would need my friends. I would call out to them, just as if I were getting on the phone. But fortunately with Twitter, a few sentences would reach them. And I wouldn’t be as alone as I was before I hit enter.

But what I would do or not do doesn’t matter. WHY on earth would I care, let alone judge, another human for a personal decision that has NO impact on my life or hurts anyone else?

In saying this, I suppose I am casting judgement on those judging — and judging one another is the thing I despise most. But, trust me, I am not saying that I am better than anyone who criticized Monica. Goodness knows I am guilty of crap and mistakes myself.

I am just standing up and saying, “Come on people — try nice. It will make you and everyone else feel a heck of a lot better.”

And I hope the next time you make a mistake, say you don’t get rental insurance and you learn a horrible lesson from it, the people standing around watching from a distance don’t hurl the same crap people just hurled at Monica Bielanko.

Fortunately, the online haters are far fewer than the supporters. Fortunately, not all personal bloggers give up and walk away from this incredible community, scared off by a few angry people with megaphones.

Because the world is a better place with personal bloggers. We tell our stories. We tell the truth. And in doing so, we help heal ourselves and we help heal our readers.

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Written by Janice Croze, co-founder of 5 Minutes for Mom.

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Photo from Flickr: Monica Bielanko


  1. says

    I cannot even imagine what they are going through. And YES, I probably would be tweeting and Facebooking. It’s my life and if people don’t like it, that’s just too bad. If there was nothing I could be doing to save anyone/anything at that time and I was helpless, I would reach out to my online family, you bet I would.

    No one should judge however we also have to be cautious online to not always believe what we hear/read. There are a lot of scammers out there who share their ‘tragic’ stories and people fall for their pleas for money, etc. ALL THE TIME It goes on more than most know so I am skeptical sometimes when I hear something (not talking about this situation).

    I feel horrible for this family and all who have experienced something like it. I don’t know what it’s like to go through it so I’m not one to judge. I’ll pray for their family!

  2. says

    Very well said Janice. I could not agree more. I have read some of the hateful stuff and could not believe it. Yes everyone has an opinion but you don’t need to be so hurtful with it. How does it affect the haters life? It doesn’t. You don’t agree with her actions or the money that was raised then just ignore it and move on with your own life. There are much better things we can do with our energy in life.

  3. says

    We all get so much access to people’s experience online, the details and swiftness of news allows us to make judgements and draw conclusions in the blink of an eye. But the thing is, we aren’t standing there, it isn’t our house or our spouse or our life. I think it’s tragic what happened, the fire and the hailstorm of negativity afterwords.

    I love that you said this because I think it’s long since time for people to start treading more lightly with their judgement. I stood with my friends as they watched their home burn, how you respond to that kind of emotional assault is something even those of us standing beside them in real life can ever, ever comprehend.

    Thanks you.

  4. says

    I would TOTALLY tweet it out! To me it’s the EXACT same as calling someone for some support. Actually, I use twitter more than I use my phone to call people.

  5. Jolanta says

    I love what you wrote here. It makes the whole story resonate a lot more. And I can see now why Kate went to so much trouble to help out her friend.
    I read Monica Bielanko’s blog on Babble and a few weeks ago she wrote a piece about how the way the Duggars had expressed their grief after the loss of a child had made her feel extremely uncomfortable. She suggested that the Duggars should have thought more carefully about where photographs of their stillborn child could end up (in this case TMZ) and invited her readers to discuss and disseminate the rights and wrongs of expressing grief in this way. Monica’s position was that they had acted irresponsibly. Quote: “I question the Duggars’ judgement in handing out those photos, especially since they’re aware of their celebrity status and could’ve foreseen something like this happening.”
    No one should have crap hurled at them during a time of tragedy, I totally agree with you there. But you may find Monica Bielanko isn’t entirely on your side.

  6. says

    You’re exactly spot-on with this, Jan. There’s a reason we make friends online: for their support. She was desperate for comfort in what was obviously a tragic situation. She reached out to her support system, just like most of us would do in a situation when she could safely.

    Well-said, Janice, and thanks for speaking for us.

  7. says

    This? “And I wouldn’t be as alone as I was before I hit enter.”

    Is why I hit enter. It’s part of why I blog. It’s true, offline people don’t understand, even online people don’t understand. I have an amazing network of women who will be by my side in 1 second in a tragedy should I press enter. Now whether I would or not would be based entirely on how I respond to tragedy IN THE SITUATION, and for that, I don’t know. Who does know? It’s not fair to judge someone for their response. NO ONE KNOWS. Thanks for posting this. I’ve seen too many bloggers being judged on this same thing and it makes me so mad too.

  8. says

    It’s so hard to say what you’ll do until you’re in the situation, but I think I’d probably reach out to Twitter and Facebook. I think it would help me express my feelings at that moment and keep me from going crazy.

  9. says

    Thank you for this post. Thank you.

    November 19, 2002, my family and I stood in our yard and watched the only home I had ever known go up in flames. We left that evening with the clothes we were wearing and some hygiene items that our friends had brought to us. Red Cross was no where to be seen, because we lived in a rural area. All we had were our friends and family. We stayed with my grandmother and I logged onto her computer to update my friends via MSN that our home had burned down. I needed them to know and I needed their support.

    I cannot imagine being judged for my decisions. Losing our home made my depression even worse and within months, I attempted suicide. I can only imagine how hateful posts like JG’s would have worsened my hurt and pushed me over the edge even quicker.

    It’s sickening. I went to sleep thinking about it and I woke up still sick to my stomach. I didn’t know that amount of bitterness could exist in a person.

    It really hurts that 12 year old girl that stood and watched everything she knew go up in flames.

    Thanks for letting me vent.

  10. says

    After burying two children, watching our business with half our personal belongings burn to the ground and having my husband of 21 years walk away the day of our 17 year old daughter’s funeral…I’ve learned that absolutely no one knows what someone else is actually going through. Let there be more loving, supporting and understanding people and less ignorant, selfish and jealous people in the world. Thank you Janice!!

  11. says

    Really?! People criticized her for that?! It’s interesting to me that when tragedy strikes some folks think we should keep it to ourselves but it’s OK to yell from the rooftops when wonderful things happen. Everyone deals with tragedy in different ways.

  12. says

    I think all too often we see the “common” names spreading the hate and questioning of someone’s tragedy, hardship, etc. and it’s disgusting when I see it pop up because honestly, I think we all know the reasoning behind such posts.

  13. says

    I’d do the same thing…which I commented on getoffmyinternets dot net….and promptly got a huge amount of nasty comments from people telling me to get a life and go to rehab for my addiction. LOL – The owner of the blog actually went so far as to disable my name and URL, stating “no clicks for you”…what I find hilarious about this is that they were all so nasty about Monica using social media, and my not judging her for it – but these people went CRAZY leaving comments and downloading photos insulting me. Now, who really needs to get a life?

  14. emily e says

    We had a house fire on Christmas day 2010. After I got my daughter and pets to safety (and myself as I was 8 months pregnant) one of the first things I did was go on Facebook and ask for prayers. I was next door at my mom’s house and was entirely powerless feeling. Asking for prayers was the only thing I could do other than pace the floor and watch the smoke fill the sky. Unless someone has been in that place they have no right to judge.

  15. says

    Unfortunately, people love to be mean, particularly when they can be mean anonymously. Monica used a form of communication that is second nature, shouting out to her friends in pain and sorrow. Would she be criticized for tweeting that she’d just gotten married? It’s cute and funny when two newlyweds pause at the alter to change their status on Facebook.

    I remember a while back when a mother was crucified because she tweeted that her child had just drowned. The woman just lost her baby. Even if you think she should keep the whole situation to herself and never post a word online, you know what? It’s none of your business how she chose to express herself in that moment.

    As my grandmother used to tell me, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. If you don’t want to hear about other people’s troubles, stop following anyone on Facebook or Twitter. Better yet, delete your accounts completely, because no one wants to hear about your troubles, if you’re not willing to lend a sympathetic ear to theirs.


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