Death and social media

Something really sad and strange happened yesterday.

One of the guys I trained in Cultural Immersion sadly passed away, and I found out through facebook status updates.

I don’t speak tagalog, so at first I couldn’t really figure out what was happening. I realised that some of his classmates were posting messages that spoke about him leaving and about losing him, so stupidly I thought he had left the company and thought nothing of it.

But the messages kept rolling in and something didn’t feel right, so I checked out his profile and realised that seemingly he had indeed passed away.

I didn’t know what to do. The protocol seemed to be to post a message of loss and condolence on his wall, but to me this seemed like an odd thing to do.  It was also very sad.

His last status update spoke about his trip to the beach last Friday, it was very confronting to think that he was this person planning a trip to the beach and joking about it on his facebook profile, and now it was a place of grieving and condolence messages and funeral plans and updates.

Then I realised…is Facebook the death notice page of the new millenium?

Does anyone even check the death notices page of the newspaper anymore? I know I certainly don’t. I imagine I would find out about the death of an acquaintance through a mutual friend or through facebook or email. I certainly wouldn’t think to read the paper.

I understand that times are changing, indeed I have embraced social media to the max, but there is something still that doesn’t feel right about combining death and facebook. Perhaps it is because I think facebook is still a fairly frivolous medium, and so couldn’t take death seriously?

What do you think?

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One thought on “Death and social media

  1. I found out that my friend’s older sister (who was a couple of years ahead of us at a small school, so we all knew and liked her) died via Facebook a couple of months ago. Suddenly, a whole bunch of people were posting messages saying that they’d heard, and they were so sorry. It took me a while to find out what had actually happened, and then I had to make a rather awkward phone call to another friend to confirm it. I sent her a message, and went to the funeral, much like most of my other friends. When Facebook informed me two weeks later that her dad, who I had never met, died, I sent an actual sympathy card to her family.
    In the first instance, when I was going to the funeral, a Facebook message seemed ok. In the second instance, where I wasn’t going to the funeral, just leaving a message on Facebook seemed really shallow and somewhat insensitive. I think other people just sent a Facebook message and nothing else in both cases, though.

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