Suffering and Social Media

A dear friend of mine recently had a miscarriage.

(its ok, she said she didn’t mind that I wrote about it if I changed her name)

She woke up one morning and didn’t feel great and then she realized what was happening. She informed people by the timeline below,

  1. She immediately called her husband to meet her at the hospital
  2. She called her sister right after she found out
  3. She called her parents before the procedure
  4. She called 3 of her close friends and emailed her boss a couple of days after.

Then she wondered, how should she tell people? It was a late term miscarriage, so a lot of people knew she was expecting. She slept on it for a few days and then finally decided to post on Facebook. She wrote,

“I’ve been struggling with this for a few weeks now and I wanted to let my friends and extended family know, Josh and I had a miscarriage. We are both ok but very upset and need some time to heal – so apologize if we are MIA for a bit. Thank you for your love and support”

Immediately, she had hundreds of people commenting and liking – offering their condolences and support.

Judy felt a little better. She felt as though, posting on Facebook was the right decision and for a little while she didn’t feel so alone in her suffering.

—-

A couple of weeks later I had lunch with some mutual friends. Judy didn’t attend, she still wasn’t feeling up to it.

As we ate our meals one friend mentioned Judy. She asked me if I knew and I replied yes, she had told me. Then another friend asked, when she told me. I was confused, I didn’t understand what did timeline have to do with it? I said, “Um. Maybe a couple of days after.”

Silence consumed the table.

“We found out on Facebook” One friend mentioned and the rest of the table nodded their heads.

Then one friend had the courage to say what the rest of them were thinking, “I just think, it was tacky, the way she did it. I mean, I get it, you are upset, but posting it on Facebook? It’s a lil……. attention seeking”

I know, as you read this you are horrified and in that moment, I was horrified too. How could they be so cruel? This poor woman lost a child and they are talking about etiquette?

But,

When I thought about it – I realized that the only reason I felt such compassion toward Judy is because she is a dear friend. I too have judged people who posted about illness and loss on Facebook and I guarantee so have you.

We can’t help it.

If you search “How to post about cancer on Facebook,” there are hundreds and thousands of articles instructing you on how to announce to Facebook that you have been diagnosed with cancer. There are equally as many articles arguing that you should not post about cancer on Facebook.

According to some sharing your illness on social media dilutes the grief so that its comprehensible to everyone, including those people who are only distantly aware of the situation.

I read through the comments posted on Judy’s status,

“I am so sorry for your loss. Please let me know if you need anything at all. Remember, God has a plan for all of us”

and another,

“You are strong passionate woman and I am praying for you. Everything will work out in due time”

It makes complete sense, it’s the human condition – trying to control uncertainty.  People were trying to control the situation – letting her know that her loss was part of some master plan.

In 1990 researcher Aerie Kruglanski introduced the concept of “need for cognitive closure”- Need for closure means: individuals need to have an answer for any given topic. This concept explains the comments I read on Judy’s post.

Judy didn’t ask people for explanations. She was simply letting people know about this tragic event that happened. But to comprehend and accept what had happened to her people were offering their reasons, “It’s all part of God’s plan.”

Why do we consider peoples suffering oversharing? It’s because it makes us uncomfortable. It reinforces the reality that we run from – that life is messy and uncertain. That despite all our systems, measurements and procedures we cannot control anything.

Social Media is our security blanket. It is a world we have created to protect us from the real world and any mention of reality upsets us. Judy’s miscarriage was tragic and unexpected. Her grief is a reminder that we cannot predict or control anything and what my girlfriends were upset about was not etiquette. Her Facebook status destroyed their perfect feed. It reminded them about how horribly messy life is.

If you are suffering in silence, I encourage you to post about it. If you are struggling with how to announce your grief. Check out these sites:

2 thoughts on “Suffering and Social Media

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