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Grief in the Time of Technology

When asked, most people would probably laud technology as having made their life better. Tasks can be accomplished faster; entertainment and information are ubiquitous, and we have never been more connected to friends and family. When it comes to grief and loss, however, technology can create awkward and uncomfortable situations, calling into question who is “responsible” for announcing a death via social media and how such a delicate situation can be handled gracefully.

Posting for Upworthy, Taya Johnson relives her rather traumatizing experience with social media following the death of her husband. Vividly painting the plethora of feelings with which she was dealing, Ms. Johnson pleads to everyone who may be reading her words to wait, to let the closest family of the deceased make the decision to share the sad news, to avoid creating even more stress and panic for a grieving family.

Her message is poignant and relevant; social media has become the ultimate venting outlet for everyone, young and old. However, when the venting has legitimate capacity to hurt and damage, some self-censorship – call it self-restraint – is never a bad thing. Even if you were extremely close to the deceased, if there were others who were closer, it is probably not your place to share.

Before posting, consider whether you are in a position to be doing so. Ms. Johnson asks a series of great questions that you should certainly also be asking yourself—most notably, who are you to the deceased? Is it your place to share that a death has occurred? And how may your post affect relationships and the grieving process. A tendency to be conservative when answering these types of questions will certainly serve you, and your friends and family, well.

If you are struggling with your grief and need a place to share or relieve it, consider, instead, talking to family members or friends, finding a support group or simply writing out your feelings and thoughts. In many ways, these outlets will yield far better results than a social media post and they will not run the risk of hurting feelings or creating negative situations.

Remember, everything that your do on social media has an effect larger than you may originally grasp, especially where death and grieving is concerned. Take a look at Ms. Johnson’s impassioned plea and the next time you pull out your phone or tablet to share in your grief or offer condolences, wait.

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