Tag Archives: Social Networking

How we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life.

This is a much more personal post than most. But ultimately it relates to social media in a way that I think is appropriate for my work blog.

In the past ten months, I have learned about the deaths of three people that I know through Facebook. Two of them were “friends”, one was a “friend of a friend”, actually of several friends. One of them, a former co-worker, died after a bout with cancer. The other two were former high school classmates, both of whom died of suicide.

In all three cases, I learned about this through Facebook wall postings. Over time, the walls became a place where people exchanged information, memories, paid respects, expressed grief and loss, and in some cases supported one another.

Today, just now, I was on Facebook and the one person I wasn’t friends with was just presented to me as “Someone you may know”.

I’ve said that “social networking is truly social” meaning that it is a true extension of ourselves as social creatures: we have embraced it and extended our social behaviors, both good and bad, to that medium. And nothing drives home that point more than death on Facebook.

The suggestion that I “friend” someone who is now dead, and my other recent experiences around the deaths of people on Facebook led me today to realize that Facebook’s use and importance as part of our social interactions has outstripped some of its capabilities. Put simply, Facebook (or any other social networking site) lacks mechanisms to deal gracefully and thoughtfully with death. From the question of “how do you take control of the Facebook account of a loved one who has died” to keeping the profile alive (pun somewhat intended) but reflecting the fact that the person is deceased, there’s no graceful, easy way to deal with death on Facebook.

It’s not just a technology problem: there are questions around etiquette and customs as well that we as a society have to work out.

But at this point, it’s certainly clear to me that as social networking becomes ever more truly social, it needs to be able to handle not just the good of our social lives, but also the hard things.

Kirk asked in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: “[H]ow we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life, wouldn’t you say?”

As regards social networking, I believe the answer is an unequivocal “Yes”.

A Death, A Birth, A Possible Terminal Diagnosis

It’s an interesting 24 hours in the world of social networking with big news related to three big companies that marks them moving to a new stage. Basically, we’re seeing a death, a birth, and a possible terminal diagnosis.

First the death. Kara Swisher is reporting this morning at allthingsd.com that News Corp. is selling MySpace. Based on the excellent, detailed story on MySpace over at Bloomberg Businessweek and the fact that  News Corp paid $580 Million in 2005 and is unloading it today for $35 Million, it’s clear that MySpace is following Friendster to the Island of Misfit Social Networking sites.

Next the birth. Google announced yesterday it’s latest attempt at a Facebook killer: Google+. It’s very early, to be sure. But some of the early reviews of it sound that after the failure of Buzz and Wave, the third time may be a charm and Google may have something that will stick around.

Finally, a possible terminal diagnosis: Twitter. Biz Stone announced yesterday that he’s leaving Twitter. On the heels of several other reshufflings and the fact that Stone has been the face of Twitter from the beginning, you have to wonder if this is going to turn out to be Twitter’s “jump the shark” moment.

We’ll see how this all plays out. But it’s been a big day for social networkng.

Using Facebook to Help After a Disaster

A short post today to highlight an ingenious and fascinating new application of Facebook.

In the wake of the terrible string of tornadoes across the southern United States this week, some people have stood up a Facebook page to enable people who find lost photos and documents to post scanned images of them in the hopes that their rightful owners will find them and claim them.

Granted, this is a new thing and it may not work as expected. One person has posted on the wall a reminder/caution to obscure personally identifiable data, saying the last thing a tornado victim needs is to be a subsequent victim of identity theft. And there may be risks around theft or unverified claims.

But the fact is that people are trying to use new tool to solve a very human problem. And that deserves note and watching.

It also marks another way in which social networking is becoming truly “social”: a part of our true social interactions as people.