An Open Letter To People (My Family Included) Who Think It’s OK To Post Tragic News On Facebook
I never have – and likely never will – understand how in the middle of a tragedy (death, hospital visits, freak accidents), people’s first thought is to update their Facebook or Twitter status with the news. I remember a friend once stopped to take a picture of her son’s busted lip and posted it online before taking him to the emergency room for stitches. That was the day I quietly nominated her for worst mother of the year, not to mention said a prayer for her hurt little boy. At this point, I’ve succumbed to the “to each his own” rule, figuring if letting everyone know your sad news helps you cope, fine. What I cannot make peace with is how doing so causes me (and other people) to find out devastating news through a Facebook or Twitter feed instead of in-person or by phone. Heck, I would even settle for a text message if it meant I wouldn’t be bombarded with RIP and RIH messages on my homepage that make me respond, WTF?
I’ll never forget the day last fall when all over my Facebook feed there were messages my older cousin had posted on his sister, brother, and nieces and nephew’s walls telling them they needed to call home about his dad (my uncle) ASAP. He’d posted it so many times, I immediately went into panic mode. I was closer to my uncle than my own grandfather so I dreaded hearing that something terrible had happened, while simultaneously wanting to smack my cousin for inducing so much fear out of the blue. I called around the family and was told my uncle was just fatigued, having some pain, but it was nothing serious. Not long after I found out (thankfully, not through word of mouth this time) that my uncle had been diagnosed with cancer. A year later, though, I’m finding myself in a similar digital situation that is frustrating to say the least.
Last Sunday, my mom told me that same uncle was placed in Hospice because he was no longer able to take care of himself. By the next morning, I had been tagged in a post by another relative — along with 19 other family members — that essentially told everybody’s Facebook friends things were going downhill with his health and we all needed prayer. Again I was put on alert and not comfortable with some generic Facebook plea being broadcast in the hour of need the hour I arrived at work. Not long after, my mom told me the family was gathering because they didn’t think it would be much longer before my uncle passed. Thanks, Facebook. Thanks, Family.
And this morning, though I was briefed via a text from my mom (which I still have to get on her about), I found out my uncle had passed away. Upset enough as I was — and trying to figure out how to care about Chrianna, Mariah Carey, And “Love & Hip-Hop” in the midst of this revelation — I received a Gchat from a family friend around 8:30 am asking, “did you hear?” like we were talking about a new rap single or something. And though I put off going on Facebook as long as possible, sure enough the rest in heaven/in peace, and sad going away messages took over my timeline, making an impossibly difficult day, that much harder. Unlike the ability to block out certain things from your mind and handle business until you can go cry in the car or do whatever you need to do, thanks to Mark Zuckerberg’s nifty Facebook design, you can’t block out random updates from smacking you in the face and the heart.
I mean, remember when you used to ask a person if they were sitting down before you told them bad news? Now you can be inundated with it just trying to check-in on FourSquare. The ish has got to stop. I know people want to spread the word and receive condolences and pay e-respects, but no one lives in a bubble and Facebook/Twitter and all those things straight pop whatever since of privacy you can hold on to and put the business out there for everyone to see without any sort of emotional buffer. Not to mention courtesy for people who don’t want to share their personal business with Internet friends. Can we at least give the mentions of the dead a day (half at least) before splattering that type of news on the e-waves and making sure everyone who actually would need to know that sort of thing has been intimately informed rather than digitally?
I always shudder when I see those types of notifications from friends breaking crazy news and all the paranoid triple question marks, call me asap, what happened messages that fall under the wall posts. No one wants to get unexpected bad news and then be forced to wait for the next status update to find out if they need to make a trip, send flowers, bow in prayer or what. At the very least, use the messaging system to indicate the seriousness of the topic and keep things private. Social Media has re-written the rules on a lot of our social interactions, but some things we just need to keep sacred and private due to their sensitive nature and the feelings of all (key word) involved.
Have you ever found out anything horrific online? What’s your stance on posting sad news on Facebook/Twitter?
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