Mom Shellie Ross' Tweet About Son's Death Sparks Debate Over Use of Twitter During Tragedy


Amid tweets about the weather and her pets, mommy blogger Shellie Ross shocked many of her 5,000 followers with a message on Twitter they weren't expecting to read.

"Fog is rolling in thick scared the birds back in the coop," Ross tweeted at 5:22 p.m. on Monday.

At 5:23 p.m., her son called 911 to report that his brother, 2-year-old Bryson, was floating unconscious in the pool. Records show that the Brevard County Fire-Rescue paramedics arrived at Ross' Mirrett Island, Fla., home at 5:38 p.m.

And 34 minutes later, at 6:12 p.m., Ross tweeted again. "Please pray like never before, my 2 yr old fell in the pool."

Nearly five hours later, after her son had been pronounced dead, Ross tweeted again.

"Remembering my million dollar baby," she wrote. Ross included a photo of Bryson in the post, time-stamped at 11:08 p.m. A few minutes later, she posted another photo of her son.

The Brevard County Sheriff's office told that Ross' 11-year-old son called 911 after they discovered the toddler's body floating the pool. According to Public Information Officer Lt. Bruce Barnett, the mother and older son had been cleaning out a chicken coop while the toddler was playing in the backyard.

Ross had asked her older son to turn off a hose inside the pool enclosure, and the gate behind him evidently did not close properly, said Barnett.

"When [Ross] finished cleaning she went inside and was looking for the 2-year-old, who she thought was with her 11-year-old, and wasn't able to find him and started to panic," he said. "That's when she found him floating."

Barnett said that Ross estimated her son was in the pool for "maybe five minutes," and performed CPR on her son for the duration of the nine-minute 911 call.

Another officer working on the case told that they are aware of the mother's Twitter account and are looking into it, but declined to say more, citing the open case.

Reached by telephone at her Florida home, Ross told, "Nobody has a right to question" why she tweeted.

"I didn't tweet-by-tweet the accident," she added.

Shellie Ross Criticized by Some For Tweeting Son's Death

Ross' public announcement of her son's death prompted both sympathy and anger from fellow bloggers and Twitter users, many of whom were so taken aback by the shocking announcement that they questioned the validity of her tweet.

Madison McGraw was one of the bloggers who reached out via Twitter to several news organizations asking them to verify the boy's death so she would know it wasn't a hoax. "Hope no one is sending donations w/o verifying," McGraw tweeted.

In response to her critics, Ross said, "Anybody who is attacking me on Twitter is a small-minded a**hole who deserves to rot in hell."

"People who are attacking me are just trying to drive attention to their blogs," she added.

Lisa Neal Gualtieri, an adjunct clinical professor of the health communication program at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston and an expert in social media and public health, said that for some, social networks become their "entire support networks."

"Many people become closer to the people who they use Facebook and Twitter with than they do with their friends and neighbors," said Gualtieri. "And many people even use social media as their primary way of connecting with their friends."

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