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Social Media and Loss

In my Google+ stream this morning, one of the people I follow posted of losing a friend.  Comments that followed were from other people who knew this same friend, and included references to her Twitter feed, and her last tweet, which seemed desperately sad.

It’s a strange thing… I don’t know these people, but suddenly I am caught up in a grief-stricken conversation.  And I wonder… is this the peril or the power of social media?

I went and read the tweets, and followed links to the friends and family of the person who died.  I read of their loss and grief and sadness.  And sitting here now, I feel a sense of grief myself—over someone I never met, never thought of before, who is being mourned by people I barely know, and that only as text on my laptop screen and small photos in the corners.

Is this becoming part of a larger community? Oversharing on their part?  (I think not.) The ability of strangers to listen in on, and even kibbitz/intrude on, what should be private exchanges?

I’ve mentioned no names, but if you want to follow the trail that I did…  http://bitly.com/H58s4T

Filed under: Interweb, , ,

2 Responses

  1. Casey B says:

    Hi,

    This is a really interesting post, and I’m grateful that you’ve made it. I think this kind of memorialising is going to become more commonplace as things like Facebook and Twitter become more popular, and the connections become stronger.

    I think ‘becoming part of a larger community’ is a fantastic way to think about it, because that’s what these people are looking for when they are sharing their grief over the loss of this person they seemingly only knew online.

    I’ve experienced two losses of friends I knew only online, and they present a very different grieving experience, one that you almost don’t feel entitled to. I’m hoping to try and change that sense of lack of entitlement through the Navigating Cyberloss blog.

    Thank you for your insights into grieving and social media, and presenting them in such a clear and understanding way. (There’s a tendency to act as if it’s utterly abnormal to experience grief over such losses, which I abhor.)

    Hope to read more from you soon,

    Casey

    PS: Apologies for the length, it’s just that this is one of my ‘pet’ subjects.

    • zerode says:

      Cyberloss predates the internet.

      In a very profound and deeply distressing example of what we’ve been discussing, on the online community BBS The Well, one user “committed suicide” with a program that deleted all his contributions to the system – and at the same time committed suicide in real life.

      Everyone on The Well at the time was deeply shaken, and I’m sure none of us have forgotten the experience. Some of us knew the person in person (in “real life”), but most only through The Well. And the rejection/anger towards us on The Well suggested by the deletion of the online presence, the trace of that existence as it had touched us, made it very, very personal and troubling for all of us.

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zerode by nick chapman is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Oh - and hello to Jason Isaacs.

The 400 Blows

zerode

is an over-caffeinated and under-employed grad school dropout, aspiring leftwing intellectual and cultural studies academic, film buff and occasional reviewer, and former private detective. Raised in San Francisco on classic film, radical politics, burritos and soul music, then set loose upon the world. He spends his time in coffee shops with his laptop and headphones, caffeinating and trying to construct a post-whatever life.

 

What's in a name... The handle "zerode" is a contraction of Zéro de Conduite, the title of Jean Vigo's 1933 movie masterpiece about schoolboy rebellion.

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