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A New Understanding of Staying Connected

August 25, 2010 - Miranda Stokes

Facebook is a fun and excellent tool to stay connected with friends and family all over the world. Originally created for college students, Facebook has expanded its free services globally for the massive sharing of pictures, status updates, games, and more. While many think social Web sites are simply addictive time-wasters, it wasn’t until recently that I realized just how much Facebook could do for the human spirit. Last week a wonderful young woman passed away unexpectedly. Out of grief I visited her Facebook page. It made me feel like she was still here, and I learned I wasn’t alone on that sentiment. I scrolled down her page to find several posts of loved ones near and far saying goodbye to her. It was then that I thought of Facebook as more than social media. It can connect us beyond death in a way; it can be a social medium.

Reflecting on Erika Bennett’s death, my mind came across Daniel Duncan, an 18 year-old freshman college student from my Alma mater who was killed by a drunk driver while riding his bike near campus on Sept. 3, 2008. He joined the choir of which I was a member, though I’d not known him long enough to “friend him” on Facebook. As it were, the most contact I’d had with him was the day of his death. After choir practice many of us stayed to sing around the piano and I really enjoyed getting to know Daniel. I’d learned that day how much he enjoyed both music and cycling.

After seeing Erika’s page I searched for Daniel’s and it was truly overwhelming. Since his death two years ago not only were there goodbye messages, but daily posts to him from friends and family, as if he’d never left us. In addition to posts of memories with him, there were messages of everyday happenings. Posts that began: “Hey Daniel! As you know, school just started and...” They were just talking to him, and still are.

“Why do they do this?” I thought. “Is this even healthy? He’s not going to see this. He’s not going to reply.” In this light, Facebook is a means for friends and family to deal with his death, or maybe even to pretend for a moment that he is still online. As I thought about it, it wasn’t crazy. In fact it wasn’t so dissimilar as sending a prayer or talking out loud to a friend, or even a pet, who has passed on.
How wonderful would it be to learn that heaven has Wi-Fi? After all, Facebook’s motto is “Stay connected.” Although such a notion seems far-fetched I’m really glad to see that in addition to everything we can do online, remembering a loved one—on this earth or elsewhere—is possible. 


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