Life And Death On Facebook

17 07 2010

“Those who do not feel pain seldom think that it is felt.”
— Dr. Samuel Johnson

Yesterday, such unfathomable sorrow, a little child passed away. An online “community” knew that things weren’t going well for her; we were all praying; small thoughts and notes being passed back and forth: her status, our responses and in the end a collective expression of sadness for a family most of us don’t know personally.

It felt so strange to me, scrolling through all the other “news” to this news: Some teenager bragging that she’s drunk (!), someone reporting on a movie, someone confirming a new friend, some new farm acquisitions, someone’s best day, and then someone’s worst which begins with these words: “Goodbye…”

After all these airy things, indescribable pain typed out with a few hundred characters. There it is, sandwiched between two posts quietly letting us know that while we are splashing around in summer, the floor has just fallen out from under someone. It’s so simply put and so terribly complicated.

I know life is like this.  In the middle of our pain we see people who aren’t in pain; walking down the sidewalk laughing; buying an ice-cream cone; arguing over something frivolous; trying to find their keys in the bottom of their purse. But on Facebook other people’s “normalcy” (I use the term loosely) is announced to us, condensed and usually digitally enhanced; someone’s darkest moment can be read as just “one of” a hundred things happening that day; which, I guess, it is.

The world doesn’t stop, not on Facebook, not anywhere; Ecclesiastes notes that there is a time to laugh (today for some) and a time to mourn (today for some).  It is a beautiful day; it is an awful day. Some sunglasses are being worn to the beach and some are being worn to gravesides.

Facebook is life’s little play-by-play, but it can also be death’s, as it was this week, somewhere between the filtration and the flirtation on the News Feed.

Here, squeezed between the hand-picked representations of our lives is something that can’t be said with any kind of spin: a little child slipping away, a family’s life suspended, a small group of people from different corners of the country, noticing:

“Good bye little Jayne, be at rest little one. Jayne (God is Gracious) God is gracious in this time of pain and grief.”
– Mindy A.

— Teresa Klassen



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