Many of us are “on” Facebook, but we’re not really “on” Facebook. We have some friends and while we post some pictures and status updates, we do it to keep in touch with a select group of friends and loved ones. We don’t have the time or interest to read everyone’s posts, every day or even every month. So what should you do when you do scroll through some posts and read that something terrible has taken place in the life of one of your “friends?” Do you have to respond and if so, how?


That’s exactly what happened to a friend of mine. She was friended by a cousin she’d lost touch with many years ago. Once she accepted the friend request, her cousin never exchanged a message to catch up. For some reason, my friend actually read through some of her cousin’s posts and learned that a member of the family had a terrible accident. No family member notified my friend by a phone call or email so she wanted to know, “Must I acknowledge that I’m aware of the accident?”  


This is an interesting dilemma that happens frequently with the informality of social media. People are sharing very personal experiences in a very impersonal way through Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, and especially blogs. Filters and boundaries seem to be a thing of the past.


So what obligation do you have to respond to a status update or a tweet that shares sad or tragic news? The reality is you have no obligation. No one knows whether you have read or heard the news so your response is a personal one. It’s a matter of how you feel.


A good rule of thumb I use for most everything in my life is: “Is it in my heart?” Is it important to me to reach out and let someone know I care? Do I want to do something, whether it’s making a call, sending a note, writing an email, or making a donation, knowing I might very well get no acknowledgement in return? If it is, I do it because I value it. If it’s not, I don’t worry about it.


We can’t be all things to all people so choose wisely, and don’t feel guilty.


Robbie Miller Kaplan is an author who writes from a unique perspective as a mother who has lost two children. She has written How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say, a guide to help readers communicate effectively when those they care about experience loss, now available in e-book and print for "Illness & Death," "Suicide" and "Miscarriage" and e-books: "Death of a Child," "Death of a Stillborn or Newborn Baby," "Pet Loss," "Caregiver Responsibilities," "Divorce" and "Job Loss." All titles are in Amazon's Kindle Store. Click here to order.

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