Begin Free Online Ordination

Social Media and GriefIt may seem like an oxymoron to use social media to channel and process something so deeply personal as grief. Many people, however, are turning to various sites to make sense of and find meaning in loss. Although sites such as Facebook and others catch criticism for enabling what many believe to be a growing narcissism among participants, people who are grieving are using them as tools to connect with others.

Easy to Dismiss

Critics have much to say about the supposed superficiality of emotional engagement on social media. They hold that one-sentence condolences, for example, only indicate that the responder is able to weigh in without experiencing any contact with the actual pain of the person suffering loss. There are many traditions that support the concept that grief is best processed communally, in-person or at least voice-to-voice. Skeptics of social media in this context say a quick, "Hugs!" accompanied by a sad-face emoticon is no substitute for human contact. Others, though, have a different take on the effectiveness of social media to provide a balm in times of need.

Cultural Shift

A sticking point for many is the familiarity of the medium. In times of grief as elsewhere, abbreviated language, acronyms, and misspellings are the norm, not the exception. Absent from this experience are the carefully written notes on good stationery, the mass and remembrance cards and all the formal language that accompanies those things. The use of social media to express loss and to support someone who is grieving a loss now means a virtual abandonment of the ceremonial language of the past. That may be a good thing, some say. The safety and physical distance of sites such as Facebook may allow people to say what they want to say more freely. The stammer of discomfort gives way to the liberty to offer their thoughts sincerely.

Effective for Memorials

Many funeral businesses offer access to online memorial sites. These are spaces to post obituaries and receive condolences. Facebook has also laid out a number of guidelines for memorial pages, where people can comment and view pictures. Examples abound of pages dedicated to tragedies involving multiple people, from car crashes to natural disasters. Sites can become repositories for the collective grief of a community, as well as for individual pain. The very accessibility of a site invites a kind of sharing and support rarely available through other means. Sites can be a source of information. People looking to connect may be able to find out things such as:

  • The time and location of a memorial service
  • Family preferences for donations
  • Plans for vigils or other events

From the "I" to the "We"

Some will say that a primary use for social media has been to focus on and promote the individual. Lots of space has been given over to criticism of users who document every meal they eat, as well as every minor and often questionable accomplishment. While not unfounded, these complaints may fail to take in the big picture of how people use media in their lives. Sad events often compel people to seek each other out. When someone "likes" something on a memorial page, it is an offering. It is an indication of a kind of presence. The online expression of grief ultimately does precisely what the in-person variety does: It brings people together. The language of online condolences suspends the "me, me me" that can be so prevalent elsewhere, and replaces it with "you, us, and we." Online grief and grief support can be still be awkward and a bit messy, but it is honest in ways that other online activity is not. Rather than performing as a persona for an audience, people come as they are, to share.

Category: Funeral

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