I’m sure that most people can agree that, most of the time, social media is a good thing. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter make it so much easier to keep in touch with others we know who might live far away, and gives us a chance to see what’s going on in their lives. Like all good things, however, there seems to be a rotten, vile, decaying underbelly of a dark side to it which I stumbled across this weekend.
While I’m still not sure how it happened, I found myself with a notification on Facebook glaring at me that a friend of mine had a family member who passed away in another state. Being the wonderful, sweet person that I am, I thought I’d click on the message and see what happened and offer my condolences. Well, dear readers, just when you’d think it was safe to wade back into the waters of Facebook status updates, the sharks I ran across in this thread made Jaws look like a mild-mannered goldfish.
Even as I write this, I’m not really sure what happened to the dearly departed – and from the comments left by those on this message thread, it doesn’t sound like they were 100% sure either. From speculations of a drug overdose to stroke, the cause of death ran the gamut between the two. Eventually, a family member joined in the conversation and told someone it definitely was NOT an overdose, and the one spreading such erroneous information should take that post down due to it upsetting the family even more. Astonishingly enough, said poster refused to take it down, stating that she heard it was an overdose, and she might amend her statement, but she wouldn’t take it down.
Say what? I sat there in disbelief as I read that statement. Even after someone with intimate first-hand knowledge of the situation at hand reveals this person did not die of an overdose, the poster in question still refuses to take down erroneous information?
That’s when things really got heated!
You could tell that people all of a sudden divided themselves into two camps over the issue of who was right and who was wrong, and the hatred and vitriolic comments spewed forth like no one had ever heard of a personal filter before. Suddenly people were attacking each other like they were involved in the cyber version of the Battle of Normandy, and honestly, I think they forgot what they were fighting over. I think if we could have gotten them all in the same room, it would have been the bar fight to end all bar fights.
The whole time I was reading the foolishness people were saying to one another, I kept thinking to myself, “do you people not realize you have someone here who has passed away? Of all times, this is NOT the time for this kind of pettiness!” If the drama llama were to ever attend a funeral, I’m sure it would be really proud of the scene playing out before me on my screen.
Having said all this (and believe me, I left a lot of what was said out of the story because there might be children reading), I want to tell you that this is NOT how to behave when someone dies. I felt bad for the deceased as I read, thinking he would be ashamed of how those he knew and loved were treating each other, especially over Facebook where all the world could see it and read what was being said. While I’m sure there were deeper issues at play than what was revealed on my computer screen, things like this shouldn’t find it’s way out into the world for everyone and their Grandma to see. As a sign of respect, I would have thought that those in mourning over the passing of their loved one would at least honor his life by not fighting over a computer. Maybe I’m old fashioned, but we just don’t do that sort of thing here.
As someone who has spent more time at funerals and wakes than most people my age, allow me to give you a few pointers on how not to behave:
1. When you give information on how the dearly departed has died and are then shown the person in question didn’t actually meet their Maker in that fashion, you should politely apologize for spreading false information and retract your statement. In the same instance, others should accept that apology and move on.
2. This is definitely not the time to drag up old issues that have gone unresolved. Nerves are raw enough without dragging out what Aunt Suzie or Uncle Joe did twenty years ago that still has you miffed. There is a time and place for that, and this is NOT it.
3. If you’re unsure if what you’re about to say is helpful or not, KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT. Simply offer prayers and support instead of risking the start of World War III over saying something stupid.
4. Never, and I mean NEVER, resort to blaming others over what happened or using the moment as an opportunity to air your dirty laundry in public. No one wants to see that, and believe me, you’re doing the person you’ve lost a disservice by acting in this manner. Keep this argument quiet for another time.
I’m sure I could go on and on about things you should and should not do, but I think you get the point. Maybe someone who was involved in that argument might read this and come to the realization they were acting like petulant children and being an embarrassment to the memory of their loved one. Maybe they’ll see this and get all bent out of shape that I’m using them as an example of poor behavior. If that’s the case and you get angry, well… that says more about you and your self-centered, despicable attitude than it does about anyone else.
Either way, I’m sorry for your loss. I hope you come to honor your loved one with love and respect and can at least put aside your differences until after the funeral.