A Facebook story: A mother’s joy and a family’s sorrow

Isaac Swers looks into mother Shana Swer's eyes at Virginia Hospital. "I love the way Isaac is looking into Shana's eyes," says husband Jeffrey Swers. (Jeffrey Swers photo)

This story’s almost two weeks old — an eternity in the daily news cycle — but it’s stuck with me since I first saw it. It is, by far, the best use of social media in a “traditional” news story that I have seen to date. I recently saw one that incorporated Twitter with an impressive effect, but I can’t for the life of me remember or find it right now. I’ll post that one if/when I do.

What makes “A Facebook story” compelling is that not only is its structure original in a technical sense, but I think everyone who uses the social networking site can personally relate to the visuals of the Facebook screen grabs — the bolded blue names, the profile pictures, the comments posted in pale blue boxes under status updates. Personally, I have found out much news of friends and family on Facebook — including birth announcements and too many shocking deaths — and can easily imagine Shana Swer’s updates as coming from one of my Facebook friends. It’s that extra personal element that turns an ordinary sad story into an extraordinarily compelling one.

From the Washington Post:

Even before Shana Greatman Swers got pregnant, the 35-year-old married consultant had a habit of posting on Facebook about nearly anything. She loved writing about her husband, Jeff, her friends at work, and the prospect of having a baby. People who knew her followed every turn on the social network, starting when she wrote on March 10 that “Shana Greatman Swers and Jeff are thrilled to announce to the world that little baby Swers will be joining our family this September. Good thing we bought the bigger house!” But the chain of messages that the Gaithersburg resident wrote over the next eight months would ultimately become a modern interactive narrative of the joys of pregnancy and the harrowing uncertainties that develop when medical complications set in. Even in her toughest moments, she tapped out Facebook updates from her iPhone to relatives and friends — a mix of people from George Washington University, where she went to college; the Corporate Executive Board, her workplace in Rosslyn; and her old buddies from back home in California. With permission from the Swers family, The Washington Post has edited and annotated her Facebook page to tell her story from pre-baby date nights to a medical odyssey that turned the ecstasy of childbirth into a struggle for life.

Continue reading here.

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