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Mourning on the Internet: How Social Media Affects Grief


Grieving Process

Posted On: Feb 02, 2017

Mourning on the Internet: How Social Media Affects Grief

Not so long ago, news of a loss spread by word-of-mouth, with family and friends calling relatives or sharing the news face-to-face. The larger part of the community found out through an obituary printed in the newspaper. The Internet and, more specifically, social media changed all of that. How many people do you know who don't have a Facebook, Twitter, or another social media account? Social media changed the landscape of mourning in ways that are both beneficial and painful.

The Internet Immortalizes Your Loved One

The Internet does more than memorialize the life of a loved one; it actually immortalizes it. Facebook allows the option of creating a memorial page, and it's relatively easy to preserve content on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and similar platforms. It's relatively easy to lock down an account without deleting it. That gives the bereaved the opportunity to scroll through the past anytime they want. If your loved one dies and s/he was active on social media, you can look through old photos, funny tweets, and personal Facebook conversations whenever you need to touch base with the memory of the person you lost.

That Can Trigger Sadness and Depression

The downside of having access to so many vivid memories on social media is that it can cause your grief to overflow all over again. If you're slipping down the slope toward complicated or extreme grief, then going through pictures, messages, and status update can make it much harder to let go of your loved one. It's easier to live in the past, or at least to deny the reality of the situation, which is that your loved one may live on through social media, but in the real world, s/he is gone.

People on the Internet Aren't Kind

Most people will never have to deal with the collective rage of the most deplorable part of the Internet, certainly not on a loved one's old social media pages. “Most,” however, is not “all.” People on the Internet have the freedom to say what they want, and because they can do so anonymously, they have no filter. They say whatever they like, no matter how ugly or hurtful, because they know there are no repercussions. Unfortunately, they are not above descending onto the Facebook or Instagram of someone who passed on and unleashing a vile, vitriolic torrent of hateful nonsense.

Some people choose to do what they can to delete the old social media accounts of their loved ones. Others cling to these memories. What's your opinion?