For much of this year I have been following Tripp Halstead’s recovery via Facebook. I started following him because I saw him on my sister-in-law’s feed after she left words of encouragement for the family. Then I noticed my 70-something neighbor in Arizona was following Tripp as well.
And we are not alone. More than 796,000 other people have liked Tripp’s FB page and get an almost daily update of his condition through it. Often more than 300,000 of those people are commenting or talking about his parents’ entries with their friends on FB.
For those who don’t know, Tripp is a 2-year-old boy who was hit on the head by a large tree branch last October. He was critically injured and has been in the hospital trying to recover from brain injuries for most of this year. Tripp finally went to his own home this weekend. (See the story from AJC reporter Greg Bluestein here. There are photos and videos of his homecoming.) The Sunshine on a Ranney Day charity organized a complete remodel of the family’s home to make it work for his new condition.
The family also has a link on FB to their website for donations to help the mom be at home or in the hospital with Tripp.
It is fascinating that people who do not know the Halsteads, or other families with sick children, would want to follow the minutia of the child’s recovery and comment and send encouragement so actively to the family. Any marketer would go crazy to have similar numbers of fans or that level of engagement from readers
Now the catch to this medical FB trend is there are hoaxes. There are plenty of cases where somebody steals the photo of child, who may or not be actually disabled, and makes a meme or page for them. I guess with the idea being to sell those “fans” to a marketer later or to ask for money for the child. Here are two stories about these types of cases. The first story is from Mashable and the second is from a site about babies.
There are even pages on FB to raise awareness of these types of medical hoaxes.
I guess people could tell Tripp’s story was real because there were news stories about it and literally constant medical updates on the child.
So my question is did you follow Tripp’s updates on FB? Are you following other children’s updates? Why are you engaged by these pages? How do you determine if cases are hoaxes — like the Down’s Syndrome child who didn’t think she was beautiful?