For many millions of us, Facebook has become a key way of keeping in touch with friends and family. Many share news of important life events like births, birthdays, anniversaries. And many also have begun to use Facebook to share news of an important end-of-life event – the death of a loved one. As Legacy.com explores and develops new ways for Facebook users to stay connected in times of loss and pay tribute to loved ones, Robbie Kaplan shares her thoughts on social media and communicating after a death.
When a 25-year-old member of my community took her life, her mother announced the death on her Facebook wall. Condolence comments poured in. She posted a message when the funeral plans were made, a message thanking everyone for their support, and, a few months later, she posted her eulogy. Facebook seemed the central place to share her loss.
This experience has made me think about the role social media plays in death and grief. Whether we like it or not, social media has changed the way we individually and collectively deal with death and grief. Facebook is a quick way to spread the word and some users are using it as a place to communicate that someone has died. It can also be a gathering place to express condolences and share memories.
The latest and newest technologies have changed the way we communicate and have had an impact on the process of mourning. Not that long ago many questioned whether e-mail was an appropriate medium for talking about death and loss. And yet it no longer seems inappropriate to communicate the news of a death in an e-mail or express condolences in an online guest book. There absolutely are times when it’s just too painful to speak about a loved one’s death, whether by telephone or in person, and e-mail and other ways of communicating online can be invaluable during these instances. It’s less intrusive than a telephone call and the recipient can respond, if they’d like, at their leisure.
Facebook may seem like an unconventional method to spread the news that someone has died, but is it? We learn of deaths all the time through the media, whether in the newspaper, online, or on television. Many organizations send e-mails to communicate the death of a community member. So how different is it to read about it on Facebook? Isn’t Facebook just another form of communication?
At first glance, a site like Facebook seems like an impersonal way to learn of something so personal. But is it just another form of technology that we have to adapt to? I can see the pros and cons. What are your thoughts on social media and how we communicate about death and grief?
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 three individual volumes: "Illness & Death," "Suicide" and "Miscarriage." Additional titles are available as 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.