The Disconnect Or The Times, They Are A-Changing (Again)



Social media has changed our lives – rather like marriage, for better or for worse. Point blank: this post is for John Padgett, a recent loss to my world who would enjoy this blog.

Recently, I was online when I had someone group message me on Facebook. A long time friend – the husband of one of my dearest friends (of whom has also departed this world) – John – had died of a sudden heart attack. His daughter-in-law was alerting us. I was shocked he had died at sixty-three: he was in perfect health.

Normally, Facebook’s group inboxes are irritating – but a group inbox of a death alert is heartbreaking. It shows that a person is wanting to let people know something has happened – suddenly – and he or she has no idea what to do…  It makes sense to employ such a medium – and I appreciated her alerting me.

Although upset, I wanted to ask Emily Post how to leave the conversation in the group Facebook inbox – without looking rude. So, for lack of a better idea, I just underscored it on Facebook and opened other Facebook tabs.

For a week –

Yes, I left it up for a week.

I didn’t know what to do.

By now, you are laughing at how silly this may sound or nod because it has happened to you, but what IS proper Facebook etiquette for someone who does a group message that someone has died?

By now, John would be laughing, but I wasn’t.

This person was very dear to me – and I thanked the daughter-in-law in a later phone call for letting me know. She seemed shocked I called – and an hour later, I hung up. She said she felt better for talking… Not “Facebook group private messaging…”

In death, I’m old school.

During wars, telegrams or a soldier would show up for the survivors to be told of a serviceman’s death. For decades, phone calls when a loved one died – or the oldest way I can recall: the obituary – were norms how we found out someone died.

I do recall when my mother’s best friend of thirty years died and I found out on social media – from someone I barely knew. I had to break it to my mother and father – but I did it in person. I don’t know why my mother wasn’t called, but on that instance, Facebook was not the way to find out – but then again, society has changed.

Society is instant, fast gratification and notification. It is also instant compassion, empathy, and outpouring of love. Facebook is the new death alert notification system – and  it is a way for someone to connect and share information.

Emily Post IS dead, right? Did she even exist in real life? I THINK she did…

What is real life? Isn’t it all cyber now?

But somehow, on one level, in a Facebook group private inbox, one just doesn’t know how to respond, save the same way we did on the phone or in person: “I’m sorry for your loss.”

Something deep to think about… The times are a-changing. But I prefer the old fashioned phone call or read the obituary. But then again, when someone in my immediate world dies?

I’ll probably do the same thing.

Dedicated to John Padgett, a good friend, a listening ear, and many happy times. You’d taken this apart and psychoanalyzed it. Godspeed.

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