ESPN sports journalist discusses social media and suicide at UMass


Kate Fagan, a charismatic sports journalist from ESPN, visited UMass last week to talk about her interview with Madison Holleran’s friends and family.

On January 17, 2014 Madison Holleran, a 19-year-old track and former soccer star, attending school at UPenn, leapt to her death from a parking garage in Philadelphia.

Fagan became interested in the story of Madison Holleran due to the increasing number of suicides among teenagers. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-24 year olds and there is  a suicide every 13 minutes in the U.S, according to

“If I mess this up something is going to go unsaid,” Fagan said.

“I feel really protective about trying to tell the right story.”

After contacting and interviewing Madison’s family, Fagan authored “Split Image”, an article focused on Madison Holleran’s struggle and story. The piece talked about how our lives are filtered through social media, particularly Instagram.

“Everyone presents an edited version of life on social media. People share moments that reflect an ideal life, an ideal self,” Fagan wrote.

Our social media accounts contain the happy parts of our lives – the smiles with friends, the beautiful sunsets. You don’t know a person’s real life or what they are going through from looking at their social media accounts.

And this is what Fagan observed about Madison Holleran.

Madison’s last Instagram post, posted an hour before she took her life

During Fagan’s discussion, she touched upon several different topics surrounding mental health, factors of depression, and suicide. She was extremely interactive with her audience, and engaged us by asking questions making us consider our own personal experiences.

“Why is quitting so difficult sometimes?” Fagan asked us.

I raised my hand and explained how our our parents and family set goals and standards for their children. Our family has certain goals they set for us, whether they realize it or not. They want us to be doctors or lawyers or farmers or star athletes. Often times, we find it hard to fulfill their ideas but are ashamed to admit it out of fear of disappointing them.

Fagan agreed.

After writing “Split Image,” and researching mental health and the digital world, Fagan created a hashtag called #lifeunfiltered. She uses this periodically on Instagram pictures to promote the idea of showing unfiltered images and aspects of our lives.

Every person has their own struggles and their own hardships that they don’t want to show to the world on social media, and each one of us has a filtered life online that is completely different from our real lives.

As Kate Fagan says on her own Instagram, “These are the highlights; they are not the whole story.”

Fagan wishes to continue her research. She was able to obtain Madison’s  diary and computer and plans on completing a book about Madison and mental health and how digital technology has affected our lives.

Fagan hopes to release the book in 2017, the year Madison was expected to graduate.

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