Mourning on Facebook

Today's guest post is by Peppercommer Dandy Stevenson.

Mourning A Facebook acquaintance’s college-age daughter was tragically killed in a freak accident three weeks ago. I’ve never met her (let’s call her ‘Jane’) and didn’t know her daughter (‘Mary’) but we have a close friend in common and developed a nice on-line connection over the last couple of years.  Jane has always been very active with Facebook; nary a day went by that she didn't make at least three or four posts. Needless to say, after Mary’s death her page was flooded with messages of sympathy and support and her activity increased dramatically.

Jane has grieved very openly on Facebook. She posted two extensive photo albums of the service, has lengthy conversations with her daughter’s college friends and re-told many touching and humorous stories about Mary. I know this activity on Facebook is very healing and helping her at this excruciatingly difficult time.

A scholarship fund was established in Mary’s honor and Jane chronicles each contribution as it comes in. She promotes the fund heavily, and asks every one of her Facebook friends to not only make a donation, but to ‘share’ the request on their own pages and, in turn, ask each of their friends to do the same and on and on….

She found a penny and felt it was a sign from Mary, a la ‘Pennies from Heaven,’ asked everyone to look for similar signs (read: pennies) and to post a picture of said penny on their page. Jane then comments and shares that picture and conversation thread on her own page.

Mary’s favorite color was blue and after seeing a rare blue butterfly she decided that, too, was a sign and asked people to send pictures of butterflies, and if you dress in blue, that is a sign that you are remembering Mary and her spirit lives on. Oh and Jane would like you to post that photo too.

Each day begins with an inspirational quote or story about Mary.  She tags Mary in photographs as if she were still alive. Mary’s Facebook page is still active.

And then she got really aggressive: she recently posted “What have YOU done to honor Mary today?” Unfortunately, I was not the only one to feel offended by this challenge… this supposition that I have done something wrong if I have not reported a penny, an insect or sent another check.

I know I am on shaky ground to criticize how someone handles the unspeakable trauma of losing a child. But, I can’t help but think that maybe Jane would be better served by making more face-to-face, or voice-to-voice connections to help her get through this. 

She is falling deeper and deeper into a world where comfort and condolence are measured in exclamation points, “I am here for you!!!!!!!,” repetitive vowels, “I miss her sooooooo much,” and emoticons ":(" 

Social media is a beautiful thing. Sometimes. But not always.

6 thoughts on “Mourning on Facebook

  1. Amen, Julie. I will keep mine open because I have a few true friends with whom I keep up via Facebook, but overall Facebook has become the mass transit of social media. No matter what you do, you are packed like pigs to slaughter, thrown in with people you don’t know, don’t like, don’t care about and subject to their unacceptable behavior, boorish conversation and ill-founded rants. And ads… everywhere ads.

  2. “Facebook is not a place for aggression, extremes or over-sharing.” Totally agree with this statement. I still refuse to open a FB account for all the reasons mentioned above. People have forgotten what the true meaning of the word “friend” is.

  3. Thanks, and you are so right, Book. Facebook is not a place for aggression, extremes or over-sharing. I have a cousin who is against gay marriage, and it is offensive to see his opinion displayed on my page. I am ready to un-friend him, which is sad.

  4. I would block her posts and only go on to see how she is. That’s what I do in these situations. I don’t believe FB was set up to do just what this woman is doing and while I certainly feel terrible for her, she needs to talk to real people. My two cents. I post a lot of stuff online, but never “inspirational quotes” and while I do solicit for my charity (Making Strides), I would never ask someone, what have you done for me lately. I get blocked. Some of my closest friends don’t need to know what I’m reading or cooking or doing and then they check in once in a while. This woman needs to see real people, not those she knows through FB.