Thursday, 30 September 2010

Social Networks - Announcing Death?

Last Friday I logged on to my Facebook account and happily read down my home page, updating myself with friends activities. I then came to a few entries made by the same person, in a short period of time. I was stunned and emotional by what I read. Ivan (for protective purposes) had announced his wife's death,that was just 10 hours earlier, on his Facebook page. Not only had he announced her death, but he had made several messages about her fight against the illness, how much he loved her and the pride in their two children. It was emotive reading. 

Ivan is not a random internet friend, he is someone I know in person, but one of those whom I haven't seen for a few years, but with the help of Facebook, complete loss of connection is never quite reached. This made the shock more palpable. I knew this man, he is a good man and I can't imagine the pain he must be feeling. He isn't much older then I and his children are teenagers. All grieving. 

Being teenagers, Ivan's children also have Facebook accounts and made comments of support, love and loss. It became too personal for me and I looked away. 

I voiced my surprise to the announcement being made on the social networking site to my colleagues, and was greeted by one comment that made some sense. "It's an easier way to let a lot of people know at once, without having to keep telling people over and over again" 

A valid point I suppose.

Is there a difference between Twitter and Facebook for social networking and what you can and can't post or what you will or won't post?

I for instance, have put my issues with my son's health, in snippets of information on Twitter, whereas I haven't uttered a word on Facebook. Is it to do with personal allocations of what online places represent for each individual person? Twitter for me is an open network, with all but one person, unknown to me in person, whereas Facebook is that more personal and I know the majority of the people on there. I don't wish to make announcements on Facebook to people who know me, yet don't Know me, about something as personal as my son's health, but am willing to whisper it into the ether of people who do not know me.

I personally felt a little uncomfortable, not with Ivan's loss and grief, but with the further open discussions on the network between him and his grieving son's, when I imagine they were probably in the same house. 

This week, I saw more use and purpose for the medium as Ivan gave quite simple details of funeral arrangements and requests for donations instead of flowers. After his initial outpourings, the Facebook feed was quite quiet. I think it served it's purpose of being a place to let some emotion out, but is Facebook the place to let that kind of personal emotion out? Are we living in a world where nothing is ever sacred, nothing is ever personal, it's just an open world, where humans and computer connect as one and no matter where that leads or to whom it leads in such a vastly open space that is the World Wide Web.

Do we need to draw ourselves in a little or venture further into the open space where there are no boundaries, the world is an open space for all to share, lines of human interactions and living, blurred with the extension that is fast becoming who we are, the open lines of the internet? Do we share too much, do you have personal thoughts and feelings that are yours alone or yours and one other living person? Can you exist in your own little section of the world without reaching out as far as they eye can see and beyond or is who you are intricately entwined with the technology that enables the interactions we are currently using?

What is social networking in today's world? What is the purpose of so called social networking sites and are there any boundaries? How do you know what the boundaries are, if they exist, and what do you use social networking for?


  1. This is a really good question and something I have been thinking about recently (not the death aspect but just talking about things in general). I am a lot more serious on Facebook than I am on Twitter. I usually tweet one liners or just have silly, flighty conversations on Twitter but on FB I make announcements. I am going to change that though because both are social networking.

    Anyway, I digressed from your original question. I do think it is an easy way to convey information to many people all at once but of course is a very tragic way. However, when it concerns a death or illness, there really is no other way than it being tragic.

    Very interesting post.
    CJ xx

  2. Thanks for your thoughts CJ. I think how we use the technology we have in front of us, is personal choice, and it does seem that peoples opinions on our internet spaces, vary. It's always worth reflecting what we use and how we use it though, as once it's out there, it out there.

  3. Thanks for your post. I’ve been thinking about writing a very comparable post over the last couple of weeks, I’ll probably keep it short and sweet and link to this instead if thats cool. Thanks. smm panel list