Facebook and Family Death

I knew he was terminally ill. My X husband and I had a few touching emails about his dads diagnosis. How was he? Was his dad in pain? How was his mom? We gently recalled some details of my dad’s death 19 years ago. This was pretty much the first time my X and I had referenced our past with tenderness. I felt hopeful that all would be well between us at our son’s wedding next July.

 

So three weeks later, I gasped when I saw, in my email inbox, a cryptic Facebook post from my daughter about life and relationships, ending with, “RIP grandpa.”

 

For some reason whenever my daughter does anything on her Facebook page I get an email about it. In some ways I like receiving these frequent slices into her life. I feel included. Sometimes, however, it is as they say, “TMI.” Now I am not a Facebook aficionado so I don’t know how this happens or how to stop it. I do plan to learn though-for two reasons. One, because I was told it is necessary to use Facebook to draw readers to my blog. Secondly because I was told if you keep learning new computer skills it helps prevent Alzheimer’s.

 

I clicked on the link on the email to get the whole story. I read the comments from her friends. I looked at the endearing picture of her and her grandfather, arms around each other, cheeks pressed together smiling for the camera. Lower on the page there was a picture, that I remember taking, of Jena and her grandpa when she was young. They are facing each other, looking directly at one another, Ed’s hands on her sides stabilizing her. A bit of drool on Jena’s chin… It has always been one of my favorites.

 

I was in shock. Ed had died. I always liked Ed. Unfortunately, in laws are often a causality of divorce. Our divorce was no exception. Memories of Ed’s warm hugs and sage advise to me when my dad threatened not come to our wedding flooded my thoughts.

 

I didn’t know what to do. What is the protocol here? What is the social media etiquette in this case? Is there any? I read through the many comments of condolences and wondered, “Should I comment too?” Dear Jena, So sorry to hear about your grandfathers death. Love Mom. How weird would that be?

 

I felt like an eavesdropper.

 

I felt hurt.

 

I was really confused about what to do.

 

My rule is when in doubt…do nothing. I decided to follow my own advice until I could make some sense of this. I talked with my friends Debbie and Susan and they agreed. (They don’t even have Facebook pages.)

 

The next day my X husband emailed me telling me his dad had passed. His telling me directly seemed to grant me permission to know. I then knew what to do, I called my kids. Strange how that worked. Or at least used to work. Bad news was passed from the family to an inner circle of specific people which they then shared with the larger community. It seems social media is changing that. At least in this case.

This all makes me wonder about how we use Facebook. On one hand, this was Jena’s way to share her news. She was able to tell her 566 “friends,” in one easily typewritten sentence, the death of her grandfather. In return, probably instantaneously, she could receive heartfelt warmth and sympathy. Instant compassion.

 

On the other hand is Facebook the acceptable way to inform others the intimacies of one’s life? Does social media replace deliberate sharing to a chosen few? Does It afford, in some cases, a welcomed distance when sharing difficult news?

 

What are the social mores of social media? Are there any? Maybe we can come up with some. Any ideas?

 

I have one:

 

1. Call your mother concerning any death in your family before posting it on Facebook.