A lot has happened in the past week to get me thinking about grief and social media again. Yesterday would have been my dad’s birthday. It crossed my mind to make a note of it somewhere, but I didn’t. A couple of days ago was the anniversary of my dear dog’s death. I changed my profile picture on Facebook and wrote a nice little post about what a great dog he had been. After doing so, I wondered why I had done such a thing. The people who responded (very kindly) weren’t grieving with me, no one other than myself and one dear friend had even made mention of the fact that the date was near, so why did I find it necessary to broadcast my grief on Facebook? And why for my dog and not for my father? Partly it was because I recognized that a cute dog might gain more empathy than a father figure that very few of my friends had actually even met. I realized it was kind of a vain post on my part recalling my dog–asking others to share in a meaningless day (for them) with me in a meaningless way. Did putting up Hudson’s picture and vocalizing what a great dog he was really make me feel better? A big fat no. And yet I still did it.
Just over a year ago, Robin Williams died and I wrote about my thoughts on grieving and social media. I was surprised this year not to see many commemorations of Mr. Williams’ death on my Facebook page. Did too many celebrities die this summer so that there was no room for memorials? Usually every 2 weeks or so, someone posts Celebrity R.I.P. on Facebook, the newest being a remembrance of the late Canadian NDP leader Jack Layton. I admired Jack Layton, but I did have to wonder if some (not all) of the outpouring had to do with the fact that Canada is in the midst of an election. In June, I noticed that a friend of mine had posted “R.I.P. Rue McClanahan”. I was confused. I was never a big Golden Girls fan, but I was pretty sure Ms. McClanahan had already died. I decided to check on Wikipedia. Sure enough, Ms. McClanahan had in fact died–five years earlier, in 2010. Along with this fact I found several articles speculating on why her death seems to continue to be re-introduced each year, which I found fascinating. My original post about Mr. Williams asked the question ‘Are 140 characters enough with which to grieve?’ In Ms. McClanahan’s case, I would venture the answer would be ‘Not quite, we need more time. Years more.’
Grief and social media is still a confusing concept for me. I am not immune to it, as noted in my own Facebook post about my dog, but I still wonder what the point is. Why do we need to validate our personal grief with ‘likes’ and ‘xoxo’ and ‘<3’ on our page? Celebrating a celebrity’s life as an admiring fan seems like an alright thing to do, but sometimes it seems as though it has less to do with actual grief and more like a desire to be the journalist, breaking the story. And does it make a difference if the death we are referencing is a personal loss or a global one? I don’t know. I’m not sure I’ll ever find an answer that I will be satisfied with.
In the meantime, I will grieve as I have always done, through words, tears, and more words. I still miss you, Dad and Hudson. And I still get choked up when I watch your movies Mr. Williams. And you are not forgotten Jack Layton. But maybe I’ll keep my words to myself. Or at least off of Facebook–(this blog is another beast altogether). You are all worth more than 140 characters. And Ms. McClanahan, Rest in Peace. You deserve more than an annual misunderstood R.I.P.
To read more about Ms. McClanahan and her death resurgence, here’s a link: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/rue-mcclanahan-news-of-the-golden-girls-stars-death-is-trending-on-twitter–five-years-after-she-died-10316208.html
To read my original piece on Mr. Williams untimely death, here’s the link:
I’ve written before on grieving and social media. If you are interested, here are some more pieces to read:
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