Opinion: RIP to death notices on social media

Christina Bucciere

Christina Bucciere

Christina Bucciere is a junior journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].

Recently, my aunt recounted her experience with a picture posted on Facebook of someone’s deceased family member lying in their casket before entering their final resting place. I could hardly believe what I was hearing. I couldn’t help but feel disgusted by this person’s actions to completely disrespect the privacy of their lost loved one.

For the record, I can most assuredly say I do not, in any way, shape or form, want any pictures of my lifeless body plastered on social media — let alone framed somewhere in the privacy of my family’s home. I might even put it in my will. Some people may feel differently and take the attitude that it won’t matter since they’re already gone, but I want to protect that private moment for those closest to me and would rather all of Facebook remember me as alive and well as opposed to cold and decrepit.

I feel a bit hesitant writing this column, because on one hand, it’s only fair to respect an individual’s right to grieve in their own way, but it’s difficult for me to believe that making a Facebook status or sending out a tweet about someone’s death is really about that person’s right to mourn. Posting “RIP Grandma” on Facebook is guaranteed to garner scores of likes and comments, and that’s the goal when posting any status or tweet, so, for some people, this scenario actually creates an even more perfect excuse to gather some interest.

I was made especially sure of this point when a non-family member posted a lengthy status about the death of my grandma, which I absolutely did not appreciate. That was my family’s private business, and this person saw this tragic event in my family as an opportunity to capture a few extra sympathy likes — and she got tons of them, too.

I am furthermore decided on this when I think about whom I actually told about my grandmother’s passing. I think I told about only three of my close friends, and I did it over the phone, because they aren’t just “Facebook friends,” they’re lifelong childhood friends. It was serious and personal, and I needed their support. Going to Facebook for comfort was the last thing on my mind, because out of my 800 or so Facebook friends, I really only needed the consolation of three, which makes me believe it is probably about the same for other people, too.

To me, this means that posting a death notice on Facebook or Twitter is not about sharing the news with friends, because the friends you really want to know probably already do. It’s about attention. It’s about taking a moment of mourning and turning it into a publicity stunt. I hate to sound so cynical, and I could be wrong about some people’s intentions, but there are those certain people who love to go fishing for any kind of attention, and a death in the family is a perfect excuse to reel some in.

I guess all I’m saying is to think about why you’re really posting or tweeting about a tragic loss. Is it really to spread the news to your friends because you feel they absolutely need to know, or is it to attract some attention? I know it feels good to see the comments piling in, but if we’ve come to the point where we need to use tragedy to do so, it might be time to re-evaluate our priorities.