When someone dies, do you learn about it from a phone call in the night, an obituary in a local paper - or from logging onto Twitter or Facebook?
And just what happens when grief meets social media?
"This particular study of grief and mourning online is an example of the ways in which traditional structures such as use policies can have unintended consequences for how people communicate," said McEwen, "and raises concerns for how those exchanges may contribute to a lasting impression of the deceased."
McEwen and Scheaffer examined traditional methods of grieving such as print obituaries or radio announcements and compared them with Facebook features such as pages, messages, profiles. They analyzed documents, carried out one-on-one interviews and conducted surveys with Facebook users who had a loved one die after 2008. (Since 2007, Facebook has had a "memorializing procedure" in place, leaving the dead person's estate options in the hands of friends and relatives.)
When coping with the loss of another, Facebook is a familiar tool that gives instant access for users to share their emotions, and a large user base, researchers said, making it a natural place for mourners to gather virtually for group support via comments, "likes" and photos.
"Loved ones can continue an online relationship with the deceased for personal and collective expression," the study found.
However, users could also inadvertently erode or negatively affect the memory of the dead person, altering an image he or she intentionally created. Additionally, the research found that contributions of the bereaved on the profile of someone who died can, in some cases, foster an environment of competition among mourners (e.g., who loved her the most).
"The immediacy of being able to publish grieving and memorializing comments, messages, wall posts, photos and so on has direct consequences for the deceased's curation of self - the intentional online content creation and content editing to represent an intentional persona," the paper says.
Through several examples, McEwen and Scheaffer show how the profile of a person who has died may no longer reflect his or her image, but rather the remembered life of the user's Facebook friends.
"The individual's memory archive becomes a social archive," the study finds. "The online self-curation of the deceased is overridden."
To avoid this practice, the researchers give three recommendations in their article:
- Facebook should offer "digital estate options" to users at sign up, and allow current users this option now. Everyone should have the ability to amend their decision.
- Shut off the ability to modify a deceased's Facebook account and leave the work as it is. Facebook should delete everything after 50 years.
- The Facebook profile of deceased members should be frozen, but remain accessible to Facebook friends with the same privacy filters enabled, but the direct message function disabled. The profile would not be searchable online. Instead, loved ones could create memorial pages, thereby owning the digital content and curation.
By Kathleen O'Brien
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Eternal rest, grant unto him (her) O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him (her). May he (she) rest in peace (Amen) May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
Exalted and hallowed be His great Name. (Cong: "Amen.") Throughout the world which He has created according to His Will. May He establish His kingship, bring forth His redemption and hasten the coming of His Moshiach. (Cong: "Amen.") In your lifetime and in your days and in the lifetime of the entire House of Israel, speedily and soon, and say, Amen. (Cong: "Amen. May His great Name be blessed forever and to all eternity, blessed.") May His great Name be blessed forever and to all eternity. Blessed and praised, glorified, exalted and extolled, honored, adored and lauded be the Name of the Holy One, blessed be He. (Cong: "Amen.") Beyond all the blessings, hymns, praises and consolations that are uttered in the world; and say, Amen. (Cong: "Amen.") May there be abundant peace from heaven, and a good life for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen. (Cong: "Amen.") He Who makes peace in His heavens, may He make peace for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen. (Cong: "Amen.")
O my God! This is Thy servant and the son of Thy servant who hath believed in Thee and in Thy signs, and set his face towards Thee, wholly detached from all except Thee. Thou art, verily, of those who show mercy the most merciful. Deal with him, O Thou Who forgivest the sins of men and concealest their faults, as beseemeth the heaven of Thy bounty and the ocean of Thy grace. Grant him admission within the precincts of Thy transcendent mercy that was before the foundation of earth and heaven. There is no God but Thee, the Ever-Forgiving, the Most Generous.
"In the name of God, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful. All praise and thanks is for to God, [The] Creator, Owner, Sustainer of the Worlds. The Entirely Merciful, The Especially Merciful. Owner of the Day of Recompense. You alone do we worship and You alone we seek for help. Guide us to the Straight Path. The path of those whom Your blessings are upon, Not of those who You have cursed nor of those who have gone astray."
The wise have said that Atman is immortal: And that the phenomenon of death is merely the separation of the astral body from the physical body. The five elements of which the body is composed return to their source. Our scriptures teach us that as pilgrims unite and separate at a public inn, so also fathers, mothers, sons, brothers, wives, relations unite and separate in this world. He who thus understands the nature of the body and all human relationships based upon it will derive strength to bear the loss of our dear ones. In Divine plan, one day each union must end with separation.
O God, whose mercies cannot be numbered: Accept our prayers on behalf of thy servant N., and grant him an entrance into the land of light and joy, in the fellowship of thy saints; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, on God, now and for ever. Amen.
He is made one with Nature; there is heard His voice in all her music, from the moan Of thunder, to the song of night's sweet bird; He is a presence to be felt and known In darkness and in light, from herb and stone... He is a portion of the loveliness Which once he made more lovely. Words for Parting: 2 The courage of the early morning's dawning, And the strength of the eternal hill, And the peace of the evening's ending, And the love of God, be in our hearts. Words for Parting: 3 Farewell! The world is better for your having lived, We are better for having known you. We loved you living- we love you now. Farewell! Words for Parting: 4 Farewell, traveler. We do not know your destination but our love and gratitude go with you. Rest now- in peace- and in the love we bear you.
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