As you may have heard, last week Facebook apologized for the pain that their Year in Review algorithm caused more than just a few grievers. If you have no idea why Facebook needed to apologize, you can check out the original post that brought attention to this issue. The long and short is this: Facebook created a feature that would show off the ‘highlights’ of your year, not considering that the photos being pulled may not all be things people wanted to be reminded of. The algorithm pulled your photos that got the most ‘likes’ during the year, but of course sometimes we ‘like’ something not because we actually ‘like’ it, but because facebook doesn’t give us an ‘I’m so sorry’ or a ‘that really sucks’ button.
You may be thinking, no big deal, if you had a bad year just don’t take Facebook up on use of this feature, right? It’s not quite that easy. As you probably know, you can choose whether or not to use Facebook features, but you can’t choose whether Facebook will market them to you. And in marketing this feature, Facebook blasted folks with photos of people who died, homes they’d lost, and who knows what other horrors no one wanted to re-live.
Do we blame Facebook for forgetting that 2014 sucked for some of us? Eh, maybe a little. But they apologized and we are giving them the benefit of the doubt that this incident will help them be a little more thoughtful about those algorithms in the future. What it did for us was bring back a conversation we have had numerous times here at WYG – grieving on social media.
We have talked about the benefits of grieving on Pinterest. We have suggested using Instagram time and again to cope. And even though Scott Simon live tweeting his mom’s death made me super uncomfortable, I remain adamant that when it comes to grief and social media we need to give people permission to do what works for them (even though it may not work for us). Social media is a new and important platform for communication, and though these early years of navigating grief expression there may be a little uncomfortable for some, we need to leverage this space as best we can so it can be a safe and beneficial place to grieve.
So what about Facebook? We haven’t talked much about grief on Facebook here on the blog, which is surprising considering we talk about it in our work with grieving families quite a bit. Love it or hate it, social medial is a reality of communication these days. Yet in the moments following a loved one’s death many people aren’t prepared for the ways Facebook may impact them, good and bad, short term and long term. So today we are going to break down some features and considerations when it comes to grief and facebook- the good, the bad, and the ugly.
You can share the news of a loss quickly with many people.
The good: rather than those painful calls we had to make 15 years ago, repeating over and over that someone had died and telling someone how you’re doing, in five seconds flat you can let your 427 nearest and dearest know that your mom died. Then you can update them with the details of the arrangements long before the obituary hits the paper, and you can avoid those dreaded calls and phone trees. Sweet.
The bad: now your 427 nearest and dearest are commenting all over your page. Or all over your mom’s page. Or all over their own page. Worse, your 427 friends shared with their friends and now friends who have boundary issues are blowing up your phone or showing up at your house or sending you Facebook messages that you really don’t want to deal with. Ugh.
The ugly: because news travels via status updates these days, and because your sister didn’t warn you that she was sharing the news on Facebook an hour before you planned to, your mom’s best friend, who you planned to call and tell directly, finds out about the death via Facebook. Sh*t.
Someone’s Facebook page remains active after they’ve died.
The good: people can leave memorial messages, share photos, you can see their photos and re-read their words and share memories of them. It becomes a place where tons of people come together to pay their online respects. Beautiful.
The bad: Your crazy sister has your mom’s login, so she goes in and starts posting crap, deleting photos she deems “bad photos” of herself, and unfriending people she doesn’t like. Also, Facebook doesn’t know your mom has died, so 3 months later Facebook tells you that your mom likes a page you are looking at, reminds you that her birthday is coming up, and sends you updates from her feed. She is being shown to your other friends by Facebook under ‘People You May Know’. Creepy.
The ugly: your mom’s page is open to friends and family to post however they choose and, let’s be honest, sometimes people are the worst. They post mean, nasty or inappropriate things. They exaggerate their relationship with a person and become excessive dramatic all over her facebook page. People suck sometimes.
You submit a “Memorialization Request” to Facebook, letting them know that this person has died and you would like their page’s status changed to a memorialized page.
The good: All your mom’s settings settings, friends, and posts will remain intact. Plus, all her friends can continue to share on her timeline (based on her privacy settings) and send private messages to her account, which can have great therapeutic value for some. No one can login to her account, meaning your sister can’t make any of those annoying changes. Her page won’t appear in public spaces like suggestions for People You May Know, birthday reminders or ads. Fantastic.
The bad: There may be some folks who didn’t know you mom was on Facebook or who weren’t friends with her page and now want to be. Sorry, no such luck with a memorialized page. Once a page has been memorialized, adding new friends (or deleting them) and changing settings is not an option. Bummer.
The ugly: Though Facebook has tried to make this process easy, we have heard some nightmare stories about it taking weeks or even months to get a Facebook page converted into a memorial page. We get it, Facebook has to be cautious so that people can just go around memorializing other’s pages as a joke, or memorializing a friend’s page when her wife wanted to leave it active, or whatever. But just be prepared that filling out the form isn’t always the only step in the process! Grrrrr.
You create a memorial Facebook page in memory of the person you’ve lost.
The good: Unlike memorializing an existing page, this is creating a brand new page from scratch as a memorial. This is a brand new page that you create, so you have full control! You can friend whomever you would like, post whatever you want, and create whatever privacy settings you prefer. The page can be whatever you make it. Perfect.
The bad: This is just a regular old page so it will be included in ads, birthdays, feeds, People You May Know, etc. Not quite as potentially upsetting as the actual page of the person who died, but still a little odd. Also, not everyone might want you to be in charge of the page, or you may not want whoever started a memorial page to be in control. You know how family conflict can go after a loss. Or you don’t. But if you do, I am sure you can imagine how this could go awry and cause tension. Annoying.
The ugly: Your wonderful memorial page gesture isn’t as well received as you’d hoped. Some people don’t love social media, so you start a page to share images and memories about you mom, when suddenly your dad gets angry that you created a public display of your mom’s life. Whoops.
You create a memorial group.
The good: This is a space that lends itself to dialogue and sharing. It can be made private or even “secret” so that things posted in the group won’t show up in the feed of anyone not in the group. This can encourage open sharing. The admins on the group choose who can be in the group and can allow or disallow people at any time. Photos, videos, and messages can be shared within the group, while remaining private to searches, which may assuage concerns of some of the social media privacy skeptics. Woot.
The bad: a group requires that someone become a member. Someone can’t just come and view it, like the could a memorial page which you designed as public. This is not a big deal as long as people don’t mind joining the group, but it is an issue if you have people who don’t want to join a group, or who aren’t on Facebook at all but wished to view the page. Eh, could be worse.
The ugly: I don’t really have an ugly for this. Groups are a pretty good balance between public and private, having control while engaging people, etc. You can even create multiple admins, so more than one person can have a sense of control. I have generally gotten very good feedback from those who have or are in one of these memorial groups. Score.