I am wrestling with a dichotomy that, it seems to me anyway, has become very common in the last few months. Like many people, I have created a Facebook account and have “friended” family and friends locally and around the world. It is a great tool for staying in touch, connecting and reconnecting, checking in and touching base, all made easier by a quick Facebook status check.
Facebook pages are full of frivolous updates by generally happy people. Getting my hair done, stopped at the pool for a swim, workout at the gym—status reports that share the little moments of life. Milestones also dot the pages. My daughter’s piano recital, my son’s graduation, my parents anniversary, are shared with joy and illustrated with family photos.
As I scroll through my newsfeed, I feel connected and share a little of the happiness of my friends and family who are broadcasting life’s most precious moments.
In a twist of irony however, Facebook, the social media connector, has become a messenger of sadness and grief.
During the last several months, I have found myself, “liking” the news of a death or serious illness or injury, impacting a friend or family member. At first I found it uncomfortable, even rude to be “liking” the sad news feed, but it is the only option. I want to let the poster know that I have read his or her post and I care. I followed the crowd and even felt it was important to show my support by “liking” the news. I wanted my friend to know that I was checking in, virtually, about the situation or sending prayers over the miles. Of course I often commented as well but the “like” button seems an important part too.
Once again, this weekend, I received the news of the death of a friend’s father via Facebook. I did not know the man and I am not in regular contact with my friend. In fact months may go by before we actually connect in person. Still, via Facebook, I became aware of her grief, almost in real time. Actually, I think that is a good thing. She was able to post and share, and I became aware and could at least reach out.
What is amazing is that we all feel the grief, the sorrow, the sadness and can communicate across the miles at all hours of the day and night. It has changed the way that I relate to some of my friends. The sad truth is that, most of the time, because of the realities of distance and life’s obligations and routines, I would not have been aware of the circumstances affecting my friends and even distant family members. I would not have known of the pain of the loss some are feeling. I might not have known of the fear caused by the sudden illness or injury of a loved one.
Now, for good or bad, Facebook makes it possible to share, not only the frivolous and trivial details of life, the milestones and celebrations but, most important, the pain and sadness that cause us to reach out and touch one another. The very most basic desire of our human heart–the desire to comfort and to be comforted is a little easier because of Facebook.
So, thank you Facebook, I guess.