Social Media - Is Sharing Caring?
"When you're down and troubled and you need a helping hand
And nothing, nothing is going right. Close your eyes and think of me
And soon I will be there...To brighten up even your darkest night"
With the evolution of the internet and the super highway of useful and useless information that is now available literally at our fingertips, we’ve become a society of knowing it all. It’s as if we have all digressed to being 16 years old again (I have one and he knows EVERYTHING…). With that evolution we have also seen the birth and the uprising of social media taking over much of our personal contact with others. We like, we share, we double tap for a heart, we communicate our lives virtually with one another. Good or bad - that’s the way the world turns in 2017.
But how much is too much to share? What about when someone dies? When is social media an okay platform to share such an intimate and personal part of your life? What are there rules? What’s too much and what’s not enough? And how often do we judge those that use social media as a platform when they’ve experienced loss? I’ve been on both sides of the coin and I think it’s an issue that is relevant. And teachable - not just to us but to our children as well. So I’m tackling it, right here, right now.
Different types of loss
Let’s face it - ‘loss’ covers a lot of different ground. There is personal loss, professional loss, financial loss, loss of friendships, loss of relationships, etc. And it all has an effect on whom we are. That being said I’m strictly focusing on personal loss. Just a quick background on what I consider the five different types of personal loss.
Loss of immediate family member
This type of loss I’m referring to someone in your immediate circle. A spouse, a child, a parent, someone that you were close to and had a personal relationship with. Most likely a person that you spent time with on a consistent basis. This may also encompass best friends, godparents, a childhood friend, etc. - someone in your eyes that you consider ‘family’.
Loss of close friend/extended family
With a close friend I’m talking someone that you cared about, loved, had a relationship with but at a level that was different than say that of your bestie since third grade. Might be someone that you grabbed lunch or dinner with on occasion, kept up to date on each others lives via Instagram, a cousin that you loved but rarely got the opportunity to spend time with. You have an inkling of what’s going on in their life, them what is up with yours. The love is there but the bond is not as significant as what it is with those in your inner circle.
Loss of acquaintance
Acquaintances are what I consider a “hey good to see you” type of friend. Maybe it’s someone you see daily at the gym, a coworker, a neighbor who borrowed the gas can and never returned it. Could be a distant relative that you only saw every couple of years at the FUN family reunions. But someone that you knew, that you thought was nice but not necessarily had them over for Sunday dinner.
Loss of loved one of a friend/family member
Lots of us have gone to wakes and funerals where this the key element. A good friend, a relative, someone that we care about has lost someone that they love. Out of respect for that relationship, we honor their loss, we pay tribute to their grief. In most cases we don’t even know the person that has passed but we do the right thing and acknowledge their loss.
Loss of a pet
This is a very real loss. For anyone that has animals, has a pet and has lost them, that loss is felt much like that of a human loss. I don’t care if it’s a dog, a cat, an iguana, a goldfish (okay maybe I would have a hard time understanding a goldfish but to each their own) - if you’ve invested time and love in that animal, when they die it crushes your heart.
When sharing is caring
I think that it is okay to share a personal loss on social media under certain situations but I do think there needs to be some guidelines. Here’s my own personal when to share and when not to share rules but understand this is the guideline that I follow. You need to ultimately figure out what works for you and what doesn’t.
After a long illness. When we have loved ones that have battled an illness and it is widely known and followed by our friends and family, I think it’s okay to share when that person passes away. I don’t think great detail is necessary but something that is briefly stated is okay in my opinion. For example, “Last night, after a long battle with cancer and surrounded by his family, Tom gently passed away. We ask at this time that you keep the family in your thoughts and prayers.”
Do NOT Share…
If you are not an immediate family member or if the family has not asked you specifically to do so. It’s not your responsibility and the family may take offense to the information being put out there without their direct authorization to do so.
After suicide. There are some of you reading this that understand and some of you that are shooting daggers. Please just read on. Suicide is something that unfortunately is not widely talked about and, even more unfortunately, in some part of our lives most of us will encounter. We read about it daily - addiction, depression, disorders and diseases that are swept under the carpet. Many feel that by sharing their story and sharing their loss they are bringing AWARENESS to others. And that I personally feel is so important. And also, when you lose someone to suicide, having others to lean on, to help you through the days ahead, to make your own personal cry for help and assistance with coping with your grief can be life saving.
Do NOT Share…
Again, it is not your story to tell so if you aren’t asked by the family or you are not an immediate family member, do not share on social media. And it’s a topic that makes many people uncomfortable and if you aren’t prepared for the onslaught of that uncomfortableness, than social media may not be the appropriate platform for you to utilize.
When the loss is unexpected. Sometimes the best way we connect with others is through social media and when the loss is unexpected - we turn to our connections. Sudden loss and the sharing of that on social media almost instantaneously creates a community of caring. And love. And support. And this again can be hugely instrumental in helping with the difficult days ahead. And that is okay.
Do NOT Share…
If the loss is unexpected. And I’ll expound on this further but understand that when there is an unexpected loss in the family and you’re putting it out there on social media, some family members may not yet be aware. And should not have to find out about the loss of someone they loved on Facebook or Twitter. Show respect for the family and do what you can to hold off on sharing your thoughts - no matter how well intended - on social media for 48 hours.
If you’ve lost a pet. Been there, done that. And the overwhelming support can be so comforting. And often times the words of advice do soothe the pain and grief just a little. Especially if you are someone that shares about their animals often, such as myself, not that your followers have an invested interest in your pets but they do realize them as part of whom you are.
Do NOT Share…
If it wasn’t your pet, don’t share it. Some people like to keep their private life private, even on social media. They may not want others to know that they are hurting until they are ready to talk about it. Respect that and send them a card, make a phone call, or send them a private message - but don’t post about it unless they ask you to.
Social Media and Loss in My World
We all know that I am a sharer. My kids think I probably share too much and there are times I would agree with them. But for me, social media is a tool to not just share my life but to also share my writing and to connect with others that I like/care about on a different level. And I’ve gone through a lot of different loss and some I’ve shared, witnessed, etc. and with mixed results.
I have a good friend that has a child and that child lost their father unexpectedly. And posted about it almost immediately. My first thought was - wow, not sure if that’s what I would’ve done. As I read through the comments however, I understood the why so much more. That was his way of connecting, of reaching out and asking friends and family to be there, to think of what he was going through. I still don’t know as though it would be my way but I can't say that it wouldn't. I haven't walked a mile in his shoes. But I absolutely do understand his why. And I do know that the outpouring of support via social media helped him tremendously.
I have another acquaintance who lost her father through suicide. And relatively quickly, she put it out there on Facebook. And, again, my initial reaction was - Whoa…It made me very uncomfortable. But in reading the post it was made very clear, it was asked to please be there for her in the upcoming days. That the struggle was going to be mighty. She didn’t understand and please listen because I don’t want this to be someone else some day. And she is struggling with her questions still and very vocal about those struggles. And I think it’s so brave. And it’s made me more aware. And I hope that maybe through social media she has found strength and answers and maybe been able to help someone else.
When my nephew died in a car accident my oldest son, CJ, was away in Florida at spring training for lacrosse. I told my Lex and my Jackson right away and asked them to please not say anything to CJ because it’s not something I wanted to send him in a text and I certainly did not want to do it over the phone. That decision, however, was taken away from me. As news of Colton’s death became public knowledge, comments and posts flooded his Facebook page. And my son was friends with Colton on Facebook. And the only thing worse than him hearing about the loss over the phone would be to read about it on Facebook. So I contacted his coaches, made them aware and then had to FaceTime my son. And it was not good.
When I had to put my Otis down, I posted the night before. And had an outpouring of support from so many. And it helped. And when a week later I was pulled over on the side of the road listening to Wagon Wheel, I got a social media message that afternoon from a neighbor, a friend, whom she too had lost a dog too soon and told me her story. And it helped tremendously.
I also have been able to read the beautiful stories and tributes and eulogies that so many of my friends have graciously shared about their loved ones. And I do read them. I have a friend that I’ve never met in person but she has lost two sons and, most recently, her niece. Through her sharing her stories I have personally found a renewed sense of faith and belief that wasn’t there or certainly wasn’t firmly grounded. And the bravery it takes to open up your heart and expose it to so many - it’s awe inspiring.
I wish there were a list of Do’s and Don’ts when it comes to social media and what is okay and what isn’t. Especially when it comes to things such as loss. At the end of the day, respect the immediate family, respect those that are closest to the deceased. Show compassion and empathy and care and don’t be afraid to just hold off for 24-48 hours. When in doubt - ASK BEFORE POSTING. And realize that when you do put things out there you are opening the door to the thoughts and opinions and others.
"You just call out my name and you know wherever I am
I'll come running...to see you again.
Winter, spring, summer or fall - all you've got to do is call.
And I'll be there yeah, yeah, yeah.
You've got a friend."