Coping with death in the age of social media

Memories. Flickr: ViktorDobai

It’s a bizarre world we live in now, where even death has become impacted by the digital age.

We all rely so heavily on social media that it’s possible to download an app that decides what happens to your Facebook page when you die. It even has the option of posting a pre-written goodbye message to your friends and family.

But where does this sense of comfort come from? To write “I miss you” as a Facebook status when the only people who can see it are your hundreds of friends, half of whom you probably haven’t spoken to in years? The one person you are trying to contact cannot be reached, especially not through social media.

Much of the time it seems there is more information on a person online than there is in real life. Now, when you kick the bucket all there is left of you are pictures of you losing your dignity on a night out, and friends thinking “that is SO Mary!”, but is this how they would like to be mourned? An online profile is, for some of us, all we have to remember the deceased by.

I’m one of the thousands of people who do this – use Facebook as a platform for mourning. When one of my best friends passed away just over a year ago, I found myself writing on his memorial page on his birthday – a status about it being a year since I lost someone who meant so much to me. Is that healthy? Shouldn’t we be calling people who are still with us and talking to the living, rather than to the deceased in the form of heartfelt paragraphs online?

Many times I’ve found out about a person’s death through Facebook statuses, which to me seems incredibly strange and unnatural.

 You can love someone so much that it hurts – you, along with everyone else, in the world can have this sense of loss.

Part of me regrets how publicly I spoke about my friend online because for weeks after when I went out I had people coming up to me saying they had seen on Facebook what had happened. Even though they didn’t know him they felt obliged to say sorry. Sorry for what?

Why should these people know my feelings, and the fact someone they had never met was no longer around? Was this my fault? Now a human being can’t even be born in peace without their first newborn picture at 10 minutes old being plastered onto the internet, along with information on their sex and weight.

Each of our experiences of death and reasons for posting online are different; yours will differ from mine. For me it’s like writing music. A songwriter wills their feelings and emotions into writing lyrics for a song about something they feel passionate about, or someone they were so deeply in love with, and manages to show the rest of the world that these feelings are possible. You can love someone so much that it hurts – you, along with everyone else, in the world can have this sense of loss.

This is the world we live in now, and it’s going to become increasingly digitised and less human as the years go on. But do we need to take a step back? Maybe we need to pick up a diary or a guitar and be human once again? We should find comfort in grieving by curling up on the sofa with our best friends and crying it out, instead of sitting alone in front of a computer screen and trying to do it on our own.

Is this the fault of the internet? The fact that no one makes a mixtape anymore and instead suggests something to look up on Spotify? The fact you spend your evening flicking through Match.com trying to find the face of your future husband or wife, rather than going to a pub and finding him or her in the flesh?

Or is it down to guilt? Perhaps you never told that person just how much they meant to you? Or you never replied to their last WhatsApp message, because you thought you had all the time in the world to do so?

Maybe me writing this article is a subconscious way of talking about my friend? It could be that, whilst writing about people being too open, I’m here trying to stop myself from pouring my heart out about the loss of someone who meant the world to me, to you!

2 comments

  1. Alexandria

    Brilliant article – so well written and expressed.
    Made me tear up!

    • Joseph Ackerman

      hello alexandria, didnt realise you were on our course.

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