Death and grieving in the social world

We’ve had two different people we know die in the past few months. One in a car accident and the other from an unexpected, fast-moving infection. In both cases, the news of the deaths and the response played out on Facebook.

At first, that may sound like a horrible thing, but it wasn’t. The family and close friends interacted with a wide spectrum of acquaintances in a way that was moving and beautiful.

We used to find out the news from a telephone call if we were on the short list of family and friends. In small towns like my husband’s, some would find out from the local obituaries, making it clear that we weren’t very close to the individual. Called or not, people turn out to pay respects and support the family. Twitter and Facebook are surprisingly similar, just on a different scale.

If three days of sitting with the family has its purpose, so does the outpouring of sympathy and support that social media gives. In both circumstances, there were thousands of messages of support and reminders of the hope that continues after death. The messages formed a steady stream that scrolled for pages. For a family and friends reading along, it had to be a help to the grieving process.

Thousands can’t pack the funeral service, even if they lived close enough to attend. What we saw on social media was an outpouring of remembrances from across the world. Funny stories, acts of generosity and ways people were affected by the loved one.  Anyone touched at any point in time, in any place could take the time to pour out their memories. And they did.

We haven’t had a friend die over a period of time, though we’ve supported seriously ill people both in-person and on Facebook when we couldn’t be there. It will happen sooner or later and we don’t look forward to that experience. The Next Web has a very good piece on how this has played out for American jazz bassist Chris Bass.

If you’re interested in knowing how Facebook treats these accounts, you can find that here.

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Categories: Social / Collaboration

Author:Jeanne Roué-Taylor

I'm fascinated by disruptive technology and its impact on our world. I manage sales operations for an excellent startup with a unique team of highly experienced data scientists.

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