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Split image -- the life and death of Madison Holleran

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by JackReacher, May 8, 2015.

  1. JackReacher

    JackReacher Well-Known Member

    Very sad story that I vaugely remember hearing about at the time. U Penn athlete Madison Holleran took her life by jumping off the 9th story of a parking garage in Philly early last year. ESPN's Kate Fagan does a great job of trying to make sense of it, and how social media can sometimes paint an inaccurate picture. Pretty heartbreaking. And very eye-opening.

    I feel like too many people label too many pieces of journalism as "important," but I do think this qualifies. Do they teach classes on social media these days? They probably should.

    Instagram account of University of Pennsylvania runner showed only part of story
  2. YankeeFan

    YankeeFan Well-Known Member

    My wife just showed me this article. Very sad, and it does go to the culture of social media, and how it makes people feel like failures, even if they inherently know that their friends are presenting perfectly "curated" versions of their life.

    But, two things sort of bothered me.

    The first is how it's presented as an article for women, and seeks feedback from them:

    Share with espnW
    How much do you filter your real self on social? Join the conversation by tagging @espnW and using #LifeUnfiltered when you post your photo and story on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

    Sorry, but why is this story an "espnW" story. It stands on its own.

    The other thing is that it still glosses over issues.

    If you're going to do the deep dig on depression, and the family is going to participate, in some effort to help others, and really talk about it, then you have to really talk about it.

    This line bugs me: As Carli explains: "Other people battle depression for years. With Madison, it feels like one day she was happy, the next she was sad and the day after she was gone."

    Well, no. She told a therapist that she was having suicidal thoughts.

    And, there were outward signs: She had lost weight too, had become so thin as to appear sick.

    I feel like this girl had issues, likely including an eating disorder, and while the family wants to help others, they also want to preserve her image.

    But, if you don't get down to the underlying issues, it ends up just being a mystery, and is unlikely to help people. It's just a sad story.
  3. PaperDoll

    PaperDoll Well-Known Member

    I tangentially knew Madison when she was in high school, which is probably why I wonder why it took ESPN(w) so long to find out about her.

    Madison killed herself more than a year ago, and was so memorable in her home community that she had tribute stories in spite of her suicide (which is often a no-go for newspapers, particularly with kids). Philadelphia Magazine did a long piece on several Penn student suicides, including Madison's, last May.

    If this new story is supposed to be a deep dive into the lies people tell on social media, more examples would've helped. Same thing if it's supposed to be a cautionary tale for teen/20-something women (and their parents and friends). I'm not saying it isn't a meaningful story that should be told. To me, it just felt late and incomplete.
  4. swingline

    swingline Well-Known Member

    Up-front disclaimer: I'm more than 20 years older than Madison. I know the culture I grew up in and hers are wildly different, especially with regard to technology and social media.

    That said, I truly don't understand the obsession to document, via social media, seemingly every waking moment. Just because you can document it doesn't necessarily mean you shoud. And beyond that, the need to present an image contrary to what's happening in real life, to fake happiness for the sake of ... what? It doesn't make sense to me; hell, I have a facebook account that I haven't logged in to for more than three years because it just doesn't mean anything to me.

    All that said, I found the story and Madison's suicide very sad.
  5. SFIND

    SFIND Well-Known Member

    I'm not a mental health expert. I'm not even a mental health novice. But the story presented -- and her thoughts as conveyed by her friends -- is similar to my own thoughts.

    I'm about 10 years older than her. Back in my day, MySpace was the big thing. I had one in late high school and than on into college. My age group was already living the social media life. I remember the point-and-shoot cameras and the first camera phones at parties, with all sorts of posed, cheezy (and badly composed and under- or over-exposed) images posted online to convey the life you wanted people to think you were living. It's done for you make yourself think you're having fun and you're cool or whatever, and it's to make the people you know think the same thing.

    As I aged through high school and into college, my worldview was essentially shredded. I discovered the things I was taught to believe as child -- the dominant beliefs taught even more aggressively by today's helicopter parents -- were essentially myth. I've actually still not gotten over it. I'd probably be categorized as clinically depressed if I ever saw a psychologist. I wouldn't say I've ever seriously considered putting a plan to action. But while I was in college, I had thought out that if I ever was going to kick the bucket, jumping off the top floor of the library would be the way to go.

    It doesn't go into much detail about what happened with her, but she was obviously saddened by her college experience. She's described as a perfectionist (which I was also in HS), and I'm sure she had a very lofty vision of the college life that didn't come to fruition. She's described as a deep thinker (which I am, at least compared to the other vapid people in this age group). Friends say she lived for the moment and was sacred of future prospects. It can be a very dangerous thing to ruminate about the future and the meaning of life. I remember the terror of that age while in college thinking about the next steps in life. Graduate, get job, get married, have a family, age, retire (if you're lucky), and die. What's the point? And if you realize you're depressed at that age, you can also realize that more sadness and suffering will come through the course of your life. No matter what you do (how much therapy and anti-depressants you take), you can not prevent your loved one's from dying nor the wars, disease and natural disasters of the world. Murphy's Law is real. Everyone suffers at some point. (For a mini soapbox, I think many in my age group would be improved if their parents and families were honest about the harsh realities of the world and didn't try to paint a rosy world full of toys and vacations. I was definitely sheltered.)

    It's too bad she didn't quit the track and running if she really had thought it was detrimental to her health. If she'd really dropped that much weight to the point of looking sick as described and complained to her family, friends and coaches about track, they should have supported her decision to quit. In my short time, I've seen many Div. I athletes get burnt out with their sports (physically and emotionally) and either quit before college or quit while in school. I'd 90 percent do not regret quitting.

    I'm glad her family is trying to broadcast the message that, "It's okay to not be okay." I feel much too much pressure and emphasis by the current generation to be happy.
  6. Baron Scicluna

    Baron Scicluna Well-Known Member

    Very sad story that I'd read last night. And it makes me grateful that I grew up before social media. It was hard enough being a teen and going to college without having to worry about social media images.
  7. ringer

    ringer Member

    I agree with PaperDoll; the story was missing something. And I think I finally figured out what it was: the whole thing (video included) lacks Madison's voice and/or her point of view. All we get are her friends' and family's recollections -- which is helpful, but not really all that informative or instructive in the end. We know from the story that Madison had a diary and left a suicide note. I think excerpts from those would have shed a much MUCH clearer light on what she was thinking (a million times more than her social media feeds - which everybody already knows are superficial and edited to look good).

    I thought the comments below the story, however, were exponentially more enlightening than the piece. So at least it sparked something instructive.
  8. jr/shotglass

    jr/shotglass Well-Known Member

    Very, very sad story. I do feel YF nailed some of the shortcomings of the piece. But the overwhelming message is that young people in this social-media age can portray a picture of a "perfect" life to those around them while they don't show the suffering.

    I wonder how many freshmen are overwhelmed with the pressure to succeed at schools where you actually have to be a student-athlete.
  9. Doc Holliday

    Doc Holliday Well-Known Member

    Frankly, I watched this story and thought it fell flat and all over its face.

    I was left with WAYYYYYY more questions than answers. I have no clue how there is a tie between social media and her killing herself. There is no substantial evidence to suggest it either. I mean, really? She had some happy pictures that were fake? Come on. People can actually be happy and then still kill themselves.

    There is no tell-tale neon sign that we should all look for that says "Help me, you don't know it, but I'm going to kill myself today if you don't."

    Mental illness is a condition that takes on all forms, shapes and sizes. Some of the craziest people I know live long happy lives. While some of the most stable people I've known have taken their life.

    This story barely touches the surface of any of it. It's a shame because it could have been done so much better.
    I came away wondering WTF after watching it. And They didn't do her any justice.

    Sure, it's sad anytime someone young and beautiful takes their life. But how about getting to and then dissecting the real causes of her problems? All it sounded like to me was she was happy on facebook so she was fine. Obviously, that wasn't the case.

    That was bad journalism. But this is how stories are told now. Say it had something to do with social media and you automatically get thousands of extra hits. What a scam.
    YankeeFan likes this.
  10. Songbird

    Songbird Well-Known Member

    Clicks. Dollar per 1,000. Clicks. Clicks. Dollar per Grand. Clicks. Clicks.

    I've done 21 Click-Bait Stories this week. 9,000 Clicks. 9 Bucks. 43 Cents Per. I'm ready to off *my*self.

    Clicks. Dollar Per 1,000. Clicks. Clicks. Dollar per Grand. Clicks. Clicks.
  11. Riptide

    Riptide Well-Known Member

    That's three six-packs. What's the problem?
    JackReacher likes this.
  12. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    That bothers me too. Maybe I'm a curmudgeon because I don't do "conversations" and don't post enough on social to have a filter one way or another, but can't features just stand on their own?
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