Monday, January 22, 2018

Death and Social Media

My neice Daisy reads, speaks and thinks at a grade 11 level. She’s in grade 5. It means she sometimes has trouble connecting with other kids, but adults get her completely. She keeps a running friend tally: “up 2 friends,” she will say upon greeting us. Sometimes it’s “down 1 friend.”

Last week, on Facebook, I realized I was down 3 friends. It’s not something I track closely but I decided to look into it. And then I realized, the accounts of 3 friends who had died over the last few months had been deleted. No ceremony or fan fare for their accounts. They were just gone.

I was thinking about that when I read a post on a friend’s wall. She had just learned of the death of a friend by reading someone else’s Facebook post. She and the man who died had worked together closely at one point in their lives and she’d thought very highly of him.

His death bothered her greatly. But how she learned about it bothered her too. Somewhere sandwiched amongst cat-playing-piano videos and celebrity gossip was a nugget of news that came out of nowhere and made her deeply sad.

She suggested that a protocol be established that when someone dies, people adopt a “do not post” rule for 24 hours, to let the word get out through traditional means like phone¬† and email.

And that made me wonder. In an age when news travels at the speed of fingers on a keyboard, is that even possible? Is it human nature to want to post what we know when we know it? Is learning of the death of a colleague more jarring through social media than through other means? Or will it ever become an acceptable tool of notification?

What do you think?

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