In 2011 I had my first experience with death. Well — a Facebook death. A former classmate of mine had died in the early morning hours in a motorcycle accident. At the time I was in New Hampshire with my husband and father-in-law. We were already having an emotional weekend — this being the first time we’d visited their family condo since my mother-in-law died three weeks earlier. I was scrolling through Facebook and had — what nearly all of us have by now experienced — the shock as I scanned through RIP messages on my friend’s wall (this was the pre-timeline days).
I wondered what this said about friendships that death announcements were delivered on social media.
Seven years ago I felt a mixture of disgust and shame that I learned about Chris’s death through Facebook. I wondered what this said about friendships that death announcements were delivered on social media. This thought is almost laughable in 2019. I now see this type of news sharing as fairly routine, and I’m totally ok with it too. Twenty four hours after my sister died I wrote a post delivering the news. A day after that I had the more unpleasant experience of logging into her account to inform her Facebook friends of her death (my sister’s privacy settings made it so I couldn’t tag her in what I’d written).
While we mostly use social media to share the filtered parts of our lives/real parts of our lives with filters, I’m more and more open to using Facebook and other social media platforms to share the truest human experiences. When my dad died in 2004, Facebook was still reserved for those in the Ivy League. At that point, I relied on calling a couple of friends with the news and asking them to spread the word for me. When I returned to college after his funeral, I felt terribly awkward. I had no idea who knew or didn’t know about what had happened to my dad. One of the benefits of Facebook is that it’s easier to get your message out, even if the person is no longer part of your daily life. I…