Xeni Jardian, the founding partner and co-editor of Boing Boing — who has contributed stories to NPR, Wired, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Guardian — embarked on a nerve-rattling journey yesterday as she went for her first mammogram. She took her more than 49,000 Twitter followers with her, as she live-tweeted the process, and her results.
In many ways, the fact that she Tweeted her very personal experience is a sign of How We Live Now. Many consider it tragic how much we rely on technology — everywhere you go, heads are down as people walk, talk and dine transfixed by smart phones, texting and checking in and liking and tweeting. But Jardin's decision to update her followers as she went for her breast exam highlights a positive aspect of public sharing: The ability to reach out of a community, and have that community embrace you, in turn. The gadget becomes a life line. Replies from people you have never met offer a much-needed human touch in a moment of need. On the other hand, there's a false intimacy: We're going through it with her… except not really. She's the only one in the robe.
And she's the one who got the gut-churning results. After her very first mammogram, the 41-year old* was diagnosed with breast cancer.
It remains to be seen whether or not Jardin will also tweet about her treatments and recovery process. But it seems like a good idea: The very act of sharing, writing and telegraphing when we're nervous has a calming effect. And in this case, Jardin's tweets comforted her while informing and inspiring others; hundreds of her followers have been sending messages of support and love, often accompanied by funny inspirational pictures. It seems fitting that a tech expert would, in her own way, expose herself and the potential of social media at the same time.
*According to some reports, she is 39.