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The downside of announcing a sudden death on Facebook

When is it right to post a love one's death on Facebook
When is it right to post a love one's death on Facebook
Kirk Gollwitzer

When is it appropriate to post on Facebook that a member of your own family had died? The question is most likely debatable to say the least. For the son or daughter who just found out that their mother or father has just passed away there now seems to be human response to tell everyone they know on Facebook. When is such an announcement appropriate to share with everyone on social media, in some cased only moments following the death?

I was recently having dinner with my parents at their house in the country. They are both in their mid to upper 80’s. We were, ironically, having a conversation about their own mortality. My father was saying that he really didn't care when he dies. “I've been here long enough,” he said.

My mother chimed in and said, “when I die, I would like for you to have me cremated and my ashes interned in our family cemetery in Cleveland."

“Just take my ashes and spread them along the river banks down the hill,” my father retorted from the other side of the table.

We were all pondering our conversation as we gathered up the dishes and began serving dessert. I just happened to check my Facebook account when I noticed a picture of one of my parents last remaining friends. My parents had a total of two life-long friends remaining in their world today. Next to the picture of my parents' best friend, her son had written a heartfelt message, “Goodbye mother, I will miss you.”

“What is this,” I accidentally asked out loud, as my mother and I struggled to understand what we were both reading. “What,” my father curiously asked, from the table across the room. “She died,” we both mentioned under our breath. “Who died,” my father asked again.

The evening went down from there, like a stone dropping into a deep well. My father broke down and cried when he realized who we were talking about. He was both shocked and completely mystified as to how we could have come up with such devastating news out of the blue. “How do you know this,” he asked in tears. “It was just posted on Facebook,” I desperately tried to explain. “What’s Facebook,” my father asked through the fingers in his hands. For the next few hours I tried in vain to explain what Facebook was and how we found out. The next morning I met my parents in the living room appearing as if they each had a terrible nightmare. “Is it true,” they both asked. “Yes, I’m afraid so,” I sadly reported.

“Well--how do you know this,” they both asked in unison. “Their son posted it on Facebook,” I said to my confused parents. “What’s Facebook,” they both asked again.

I’m sure today, they each have not a clue what Facebook is, but they do know one thing: they know that they had each lost one of the dearest people remaining in their lives today. The news was brought to them by an invisible force known as Facebook, whatever that is?

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