On Death & Social Media

Posted On: 04.16.14

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On Sunday, I posted the following on Facebook:

I am sitting at JFK airport waiting to board my flight to South Carolina for my uncle’s memorial service. In the cab, I posted something to Instagram about this unexpected trip and then I deleted my post because it seemed strange/odd to be mixing something as complex and private as death with something as light and airy as social media.

But now here I am wondering what you all think about using Facebook & its brethren media to communicate/process these difficult things. I’m well aware that this is yet another such post, but now I am asking a question and it feels like an important one. What do you all think about posting news about loss here or on other social media sites? Clearly, we all use it to post news about life – new babies, etc, but is the flip-side a bit different somehow? Really curious about what you guys think.

Anyway, I’m running off to a really cool roundtable at the Huffington Post, but thought this was interesting enough, and important enough, to share here. To see the slew of thoughtful comments that came in on FB, click here.

How much do you personally share or not share on social media? Are there times when you see a post that strikes you as overly personal and it makes you cringe? Does posting about hard stuff help you process it and feel seen? In your mind, are there rules (or should there be rules) about what to post and what not to post in the ether?

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4 Comments for: "On Death & Social Media"
  1. I definitely under-share big events, both good and bad, on social media. I think it’s just a deep rooted insecurity: why does anyone care?

    And regarding death specifically, I recently had a friend lose her mother, and I only found out by reading the local paper. I think I would never have known if it wasn’t for that. (We’re newer friends that met through blogging.)

    My husband and I had the discussion about how it was interesting that she didn’t share… No judgments about it, but it made us think.

  2. I recently experienced a personal loss that was shocking and painful, and the social media reaction hurt and upset me and many in my family. Some people, who barely knew my brother, made the most ridiculous, over-the-top statements about him on FB – they made me cringe (and in some cases, made me angry). There were the people who knew him, but didn’t know me, but still PM-ed me asking inappropriate questions. Then there were the life-long friends who I thought would be there for me and his wife who felt writing “sorry for your loss” on my page sufficed as appropriate sentiments. Oh Aiden, this one fires me up!

    Conversely, I was very touched by the number of people who did reach out to me on social media (publically and privately) who knew me and/or my brother as children. They probably wouldn’t have had a way to reach me, without FB. Also my husband, who abhors social media, commented more than once that FB was a good vehicle for notices and import memorial details. People were writing on his FB page once word got out, so we ending up putting a notice on his personal page.

    I don’t know what the answer is, and honestly my opinion has evolved because of my own experience. Grief is so complicated, and in the immediate aftermath I personally couldn’t express my feeling so publically and therefor was offended when others did. With many months behind me, I realize everyone expresses their grief differently and that’s OK – as long as it’s genuine. I express myself on my blog, and I’m sure some may think that’s inappropriate.

  3. Shannon Welling

    An interesting point to this: I saw your post and immediately thought, ‘Oh noI I should text N and J and say how sorry I am’. I started writing said text and couldn’t figure out a way to say I saw the post on line and wanted to share my condolences. Somehow I felt like a big creep for even reading it.

    I thinkI have a hard time with identifying the difference between being honest and over sharing. I constantly have to remind myself that there is a fine line between telling the truth and telling every single thing.

  4. Whitney

    Oy. This is a tough one for me as well. With my dad’s very serious illness, social media has been a touchy point for my family. At one point, because of the 6-hour time difference between my family and me, my sister and mom had posted some very troubling news on Facebook about my dad before talking to me. I was devastated that I had to find out along with the rest of the world.

    Now, a couple years later, they are better about talking to me before posting anything (I literally talk to my mom every single day, several times a day, so there is no excuse not to talk to me first). However, I find that my mom and two of my sisters do share so much about this exhausting journey with my dad. I never post anything. A lot of my childhood friends and some of my husband’s family are also facebook friends with my mom, so they find out through her and occasionally reach out to me. Thankfully, they recognize that I don’t post about these things to the public, so they usually send me a private message to express condolences.

    I’m not sure why I don’t share all of this myself, but I think it has something to do with not expressly wanting sympathy (or maybe expressions of sympathy?). I kept the whole thing private in my work life as long as I could for the same reason. It’s the sympathy that causes me to break down in a puddle of tears, and I just can’t be doing that all day everyday. I don’t want people thinking I can’t do my job or judging me for continuing to carry out my everyday life while I deal with this.

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