Journalists Criticize Woman For Live-Tweeting Her Cancer Experience, Incur Internet Wrath

Journalists Criticize Woman For Live-Tweeting Her Cancer Experience, Incur Internet Wrath

Husband and wife journalists Bill Keller of the New York Times and Emma Keller of the Guardian published recent opinion pieces that took issue with one Lisa Bonchek Adams, a sufferer of stage 4 breast cancer who has been tweeting and blogging about her experience with the illness.

Both articles questioned Adams’s “decision to live her cancer onstage,” as Bill Keller puts it. Twitter’s, and the Internet’s at large, response to the Kellers? How dare you.

Journalists Criticize Woman For Live-Tweeting Her Breast Cancer Experience, Incur Internet Wrath

Adams’s “offending” tweets include posts like:

Since the controversy started gaining steam, the Guardian actually deleted Emma Keller’s post from its site, explaining, “This post has been deleted with the agreement of the subject because it is inconsistent with the Guardian editorial code.”

Bill Keller’s main point of contention with Adams’s very public approach to coping with her illness seems to be that she is choosing to “live her cancer onstage” rather than “accept[ing] an inevitable fate with grace and courage.”

He charges her with using social media as “a kind of self-medication”; he calls it a “campaign.”

The thing about Twitter is that if you don’t like what someone’s tweeting, you can simply unfollow them; or even mute them using one of dozens of Twitter clients and apps like Tweetbot, for one. Further, why shouldn’t Twitter serve as an open forum on uncomfortable subjects like breast cancer as much as news-related or entertaining topics?

Megan Garber sums it up well in her blog post for the Atlantic:

“Adams herself makes no claim to universality, or to ethical authority, or to any kind of symbolism about The Way We Live Now. It is the journalists—hungry for new insights, thirsty for new trends—who are saddling her with the freight of moral implication and then judging her for the audacity they infer. It is a remarkable trick. It is also a cruel one.”

Adams wrote to Bill Keller in an email,

“I am public about this disease in order to shed light on the daily lives of women living with this diagnosis.”

Isn’t that the only thing that matters?

(Typing image via Shutterstock.)