By Debbie Myers (@debamyers)
I admit it. I’m a big fan of Facebook. I love the connectivity it gives me to family and friends. I obnoxiously chronicle vacations and events with pictures and anecdotes. It’s even become a breaking news source – sometimes beating out my CNN news alerts I receive through my email. In fact, Facebook has become a major source of news for many people.
So it should not have surprised me that Facebook would play such an important role when tragedy struck last week. I received two texts within seconds of each other from my daughters alerting me that Travis*, the son of a dear friend, had died. They learned the news on Facebook. I immediately headed to my friend’s house and stunned her with my unexpected visit. She was surprised how I heard the news.
“Facebook!” she said. “But I’ve barely started making calls. You were next on the list.”
Indeed, Facebook had overtaken phoning and texting as the main communication channel people used to share the news of a young man’s untimely death. Young and old, it seemed everyone was in the loop within a few hours.
A few days later, we gathered at the funeral home for the wake. Young Travis lay there in his Army uniform, with his mother standing at his side holding his hand. You can imagine the sadness in the room. My friend then turned to those gathered around and said, “Have any of you looked at Travis’s Facebook page?”
A smile came to her face as she began to tell some of the stories her son’s friends shared on Facebook. My friend said reading the postings had brought joy to her and she was glad to know that Travis was loved by so many people. She said that Facebook was her main channel of communication when Travis was in Iraq and, and now, it was serving an equally important role.
Spending several days with my friend and reading the posts, I came away with a few learnings:
- Share Stories and Remembrances: Telling stories plays an important role in the grieving process, and Facebook provides a great forum for doing this. Besides, there’s a mother or brother or friend on the other end who will treasure them.
- Think Before You Post: Don’t say things like “Is this a joke?” or “Hey, man, what happened?” Instead, they should have taken a second to realize that it’s more than the individual; it also publically involves the readers who would visit the page.
News travels fast, and good or bad, Facebook, Twitter, texting have accelerated the speed news travels. However, it’s important to take the time to think about how your comments will affect the reader on the other end.
*Not his real name