A Teen Mom's Tragic Life Unfolds in Real Time. Why Do We Follow Jenelle Evans?

A photo posted by Jenelle on Twitter after her breakup with her last fiancé in June. (Twitter)
There are some trending search terms we've come to rely on: "asteroid" "antidepressants" and "Jenelle Evans." This week alone, Yahoo! searches for the "Teen Mom 2" star are up 26% with searches for Jenelle's Twitter account—her online journal of up-to-the-minute drama—spiking by 23%.

You'll understand why if you follow the 20-year-old pregnant reality star's hourly updates. On Tuesday she tweeted: "I am getting a divorce, ASAP. YOU F--ING LEAVE OUT OF TOWN AND I MIGHT BE HAVING A MISCARRIGE?! F--- U." Only a few days before she engaged in a public battle on Twitter with Courtland Rogers, her husband of 52 days. A few tweets before that, she was in love with Rogers and eating a grilled cheese from her "honey." In her recent Twitter history there are photos of a wedding ring, a pregnant belly, a paternity test, an a tearful self-portrait after calling off an engagement a completely different guy in June.

Even as this story was being written, more Jenelle drama was welling up. By Wednesday, the reality star was tweeting texts she received from her husband's alleged mistresses. Earlier that day she'd taken a more serious action against her husband, filing four counts of assault charges on Rogers this afternoon. "She was physically assaulted over a period of time," her lawyer Dustin Sullivan said in a statement released to E!. He claims the most recent assault took place on Monday.  Meanwhile Rogers has been denying accusations. "I am devastated and my whole family knows I didn't do that," Rogers tweeted Wednesday.

Tragic as it is, this hyper real-time heightened drama that makes Jenelle's life is as clickable as any story on a projected asteroid. It's also become more compelling than her "Teen Mom 2" series, which now stands to be about two romantic relationships behind in covering Jenelle's storyline.

"Jenelle uses Twitter, which is just about the most public platform in the world, to settle really, really personal conflicts," explains Los Angeles Times TV reporter Meredith Blake in an interview with Yahoo! Shine. "She knows that one negative tweet from her will generate dozens of headlines across the Internet."
Jenelle brought her fight with her new husband to her Twitter followers last week.
In the past year she's had two engagements, one marriage, countless legal battles, break-ups, Twitter feuds and trips to the emergency room, and as of this week, a miscarriage scare.
All of it has been broadcast not on MTV but on Jenelle's Twitter and Facebook accounts.

"Heart broken completely in half," read one tweet last week referring to her husband's alleged infidelity. Another update in June revealed a photo of Jenelle crying after breaking up with another guy she planned to marry.

If she's taken over the reigns of broadcasting her personal life can we still blame MTV for all her problems?

"I don't think her habit of over-sharing is solely the product of going on a reality show," says Blake. "I doubt she would have done it in the first place if she weren't already prone to that kind of behavior. To me there's a kind of parallel between her disastrous love life and her relationship with social media and reality stardom. Both are totally toxic."

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Toxic and totally addictive to TV audiences who have continued to follow Jenelle online. Viewers may be partially responsible for Jenelle's 600,000 Twitter followers and 300,000 Facebook likes, but it isn't all MTV-targeted teens behind those numbers. Of those searching her name on Yahoo! this week, 56% are female with 25% of those people between the ages of 25 and 29, and 27% aged 55 and older.

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"I find Jenelle to be probably the most fascinating and most tragic of the Teen Mom stars," says Blake, who falls in the 30-year-old demographic. Certainly, Evans isn't the only mom with relationship complications and second children on the way (co-star Leah is already re-married and pregnant again). But as some of the other Teen Moms slowly emerge from the struggles of teen pregnancy and embrace certain traces of maturity, Evans seems stuck on a never ending trail of trouble.

We met her four years ago as a 16-year old with a deadbeat boyfriend, a dysfunctional family life and a baby on the way. As time passed we learned of her bi-polar diagnosis, her run-ins with the law, her addiction to pot, her need for affection and her confidence issues

"There are moments when you can see how, if she hadn't made so many horrible choices, she might have turned out just fine," says Blake.

But instead of overcoming those growing problems, she was guided by them. That may be why so many people are searching for Jenelle online.

"Evans is a good example of how watching what unfolds may make you feel better about your own decisions," explains Hilary Levey Friedman, a Harvard sociologist and expert on reality TV, in an interview with Yahoo! Shine.  

Her struggles have served as personal "what-ifs" for viewers and a cautionary tale of how possibility gets derailed with a combination of family and mental health problems. In many ways she's the teenager you could have been, the daughter you might have had, the person whose mistakes you hope you can learn from.


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