The Propriety of Mourning on Facebook

Facebook was initially created for college students to connect with each other. However, it has transformed into a global network used by all ages. Serving as a mechanism to watch recipe videos and scroll through an absurd amount of memes, Facebook, along with many other social media platforms, holds additional purposes. Facebook allows users to present the stages of life they pass through to all those who click the “friend” button on their profile. Unfortunately, all stages are not optimistic. Deaths occur, and people post about them. For a long time, when I would see a close friend or even acquaintance post about a death, I would immediately message them in order to show my support and sympathy. Public posts acted as a way to inform one’s friends about a passing. While I initially viewed eulogy posts as a normal means to mourn a recent death, as Facebook evolved, so did my thoughts. In a time when Facebook simply worked to connect and inform other users, I believe eulogy posts were wholly appropriate. As Facebook has become a platform for satirical Trump articles, tagging friends in cat memes, and insignificant BuzzFeed quizzes, it no longer seems appropriate.

I would like to make clear that I am not saying that anyone who posts about a recently deceased person is in the wrong. Everyone deals with death differently and must mourn in a way that works for them. However, I believe it is worth considering the following points.

First of all, consider the content surrounding a eulogy post. Obviously, many people use Facebook as a way to update their life stories. After graduation, I cannot explain how many posts I scrolled through of girls and boys in graduation gowns or prom dresses; I was amongst them. When a post appears that is mourning the dead amongst petty images and banal events, the weight of a death seems to lose importance. I understand that people post as a way to grieve, express the influence a person held in their life, and express love, but I believe there are more appropriate ways to do so. Of course, Facebook and social media come to mind as the best way to get your message across to a vast amount of people, but one may trivialize the passing by presenting it on a platform that contains much content of so little significance.

Additionally, it is necessary to consider that your post may reveal the death to some people for the first time. Claire Wilmot, a writer for The Atlantic, said, “consider where you fall in the geography of a loss, and tailor your behavior in response to the lead of those at the center.” A loss will impact many people. Your post may be the post that informs many people of this loss for the first time. “One of my best friends committed suicide a couple years ago and the hardest part for me was finding out about it over Twitter, from a girl who hardly even knew him,” said first-year Zoe Lilak. “It just doesn’t feel real when you read news like that on a screen. Especially because the people who are hurt the most aren’t the ones on social media.” So, while the person who posted about Lilak’s friend meant well, it was difficult to hear such devastating news from a person who did not know the deceased as well as she did.

Lilak’s point reveals something else, too. Reading about a death on social media is astonishing to the point that it seems fake. Much of social media is fake, made evident by the current political issues. If I read about a death on social media, I must confirm it with some other source. Until it is confirmed, I hold a feeling of disbelief. How can one’s life be expressed in a digital post? Instead of posting a Facebook message to the masses, why not send a thoughtful email, text, letter, or call to the family? Death is difficult, and it is incredibly hard to cope with the loss of anyone. Understandably, people feel at ease by conducting themselves as they see fit in difficult situations. However, social media may not be the most appropriate way to do so.

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