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Local Blogger Mourns Baby's Death Along with the World Wide Web

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Photo by DeclanTM via Flickr

Photo by DeclanTM via Flickr
Last week, the blogosphere and Twitterverse watched with baited breath as 17-month-old Maddie Spohr was rushed to the hospital after falling ill. People all over the world knew Maddie because her mother, Heather, is a "Mommy Blogger," having chronicled the short life of her infant online via a blog and Twitter , since her premature birth in November 2007. "Mommy Bloggers" have drawn both ire and praise as a powerful demographic and online presence. The public outpouring of grief and support for Heather, her husband Mike, and their baby girl is a remarkable marvel of the internet age, and one frequently experienced by parents who find themselves part of an online community. "The news posted by a friend crashed the server that hosted Heather's blog," explains LA Observed . Although few fellow bloggers or Twitters knew the Spohrs personally, they were touched by the story of their struggle and heartbreak. (A similar situation is unfolding with the loss of Thalon Myers , the 4-month-old son of blogger and Twitterer Shana, known as gorillabuns.)

This weekend the LA Times published a story about the grieving couple, and the internet's reaction:

Some turned their blogs purple -- the signature color of the March of Dimes -- as a tribute; they organized purple balloon releases and began to sell purple Maddie T-shirts and bracelets. They did all this for a family hardly any of them knew in person, a family they befriended through the Web. "We all put ourselves in Heather's shoes," said Megan Hook, a blogger from Camarillo and mother of three boys. "We all interact daily or several times a day online, through Twitter, through chats, through blogs and comments. It could have been any one of us."

The collective strength of the internet as community can be as encouraging as it is daunting. As the Spohrs ready themselves for tomorrow's memorial service for their daughter, Heather remains uncertain about her role online. Bloggers, so often tucked happily into niches like "the single girl," "the foodie," or "the mom," face the challenge of how to handle themselves, and how their audiences will react when they no longer fit the mold they've created from themselves, including Heather Spohr. From the LA Times: "She says it may be a while before she returns to the blogosphere. 'When I do, I will have to figure out what my identity is now,' she said."
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