Death On Facebook: Is It The Right Medium For Grief?
I love Facebook! Since I’m not a scrapbooker, I use it as a living photo album. I upload pictures from vacations, parties, and weekend adventures. It’s a great reminder of the highlights of my year. And, like many, I also enjoy watching those cute baby, puppy, and kitten videos along with checking in on friends and family. Sadly, I have also come across death notices on Facebook. I’m not sure how I feel about this. Like many people, I have Facebook friends whom I don’t really know.
Do I “like” the post or click the sad emoji?
Do I send a condolence to somebody I don’t really know, or is that weird?
If I miss the post, will I be judged as uncaring or less than sympathetic?
There is no longer a standard for grieving or announcing the death of a loved one. I miss the days when I knew exactly what to do. Today’s blurred lines are confusing and difficult to navigate.
Who Should Know, And What If I Miss Someone?
When a Facebook friend announces a family member’s death, I feel like an unwanted voyeur into a painful part of his or her life. If it were one of my family members who passed, I’m not sure I would want the death announced to everyone on my friends’ list. I don’t think I would want to share this difficult news with 500 people I don’t really know. Yet, Facebook is an efficient way to get news out fast, or is it? Nobody outside of Facebook really knows how its mysterious algorithms work. According to Slate, an online magazine, Facebook ranks posts by how likely an individual would find the post worthwhile. Slate goes on to report:
Most users will only ever see the top few hundred. No one outside Facebook knows for sure how it does this, and no one inside the company will tell you. And yet the results of this automated ranking process shape the social lives and reading habits of more than 1 billion daily active users—one-fifth of the world’s adult population.
I’m not willing to take a chance that Facebook’s algorithm will reach my friends and family in a timely manner or even at all. Facebook’s visibility is only around 5 hours. With that being said, it would be easy to miss a notification about a deceased loved one. Even though it seems like social media is a regular part of everyone’s day, it is not unusual for me to go several days without checking in with the app. Finally, there are still people out there who don’t belong to Facebook. If Facebook becomes the sole means of death notification, these individuals are left out of the Facebook loop.
Nobody Should Grieve Alone
One thing I appreciate about Facebook is the support people show each other during difficult times. Whenever I check Facebook, I regularly see a death notification or a request for prayers. I like the idea, however, of one designated place as a “go to” for grief. Everdays creates a space for a specific community of individuals to grieve a loved one. Everdays allows a person to send a death notification via text or email to specific family and friends. The service includes funeral information, directions, and reception details. One beautiful aspect of Everdays is the ability for people to share photos and messages in a sacred community. These pictures and words will never get lost amongst other posts and will remain on Everdays as a valued memory that can be accessed by a friend or family member at the right time.
There Is A Time And A Place
I mention the right time because everybody grieves differently. It can be shocking to login into Facebook and see Facebook celebrating a year or two or five of friendship with a deceased loved one. For example, “Janet and Jill are celebrating one year of friendship on Facebook.” If Janet is my recently deceased mother, this notice could be jolting as I innocuously check Facebook during my lunch hour. A birthday reminder for a deceased friend can also be distressing when not expecting it. I don’t think the employees at Facebook intentionally want to upset anyone; it’s those pesky algorithms the company uses. Facebook doesn’t discriminate between the living and the dead unless there is a request to have a Facebook page memorialized. Unfortunately, this can take months depending on when the request is made and the efficiency of the company’s response.
How do you feel about announcing the death of a loved one on social media? Join in the conversation by adding your comment below.
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