Most of us are all too used to complaining about social media. Even in the realm of death and dying, social media can cause trouble. But it can also be surprisingly healing, surprisingly helpful in a time of grief.
Going from “I” to “We”
Social media posts are essentially one big selfie—we post pictures of ourselves, share media that underscores our opinions and generally focus on what’s going on with us. When a death occurs, however, and someone happens to share that, that person’s entire network shifts focus, offering words and “likes” of support. Some may say this is a superficial way to show affection and comfort, but it is this very superficiality of the medium that allows deeper messages to be shared. People who normally would not find the words to speak are braver on Facebook; in the world of social media, barriers can be lowered more easily.
If nothing else, it is heartening to see that we can turn off our stream of self-examination in order to offer condolences, share words of wisdom and experience.
Eliminating Taboo Around Death
Although we have come a long way, there is still discomfort around death that sometimes prevents the topic from arising. As more and more conversations about grief and dying are cropping up on social media, that discomfort is slowly but surely dissipating. If these discussions can reach the entirely informal medium of Facebook or Twitter, then they are surely becoming more mainstream.
Getting rid of the taboo around death is a healthy pursuit and it is one we in the funeral services industry come across often. There is no getting around it, death will come and the more prepared you the better for everyone involved. If it takes Facebook to reach that goal, then so be it.
It has become common practice for people to create Facebook memorial pages for a loved one who has passed away or, alternately, keeping an existing Facebook page as the memorial. This is yet another way in which social media is helping instead of harming; these memorials are often an excellent way to share your remembrance with others and connect with family and friends around a common grief.
Love it or hate it, social media is here to stay. Although some of the social norms around death and dying are still being defined on the web, it seems that some things remain the same no matter the medium—grieving brings people together, helps to heal and reconnect.