Death in the time of social media

I have written about death a few times, from us grieving our son. My son grieving his brother to me not knowing how to deal with the deaths of friends. Death has become even more commonplace and I have more thoughts.

This month is the anniversary of the death of someone I considered a friend. I can still remember our last encounters with crystal clarity. (My memory is reserved for trauma and not for where I put my car keys) I have this weird guilt when it comes to our last convo. One etched into my phone’s memory as voice notes. At some point, I said “hey we’re too young to die, we better look after ourselves” and the next week she died and it feels like I somehow death shamed her… am I mentally okay, not completely,no.

Anyway, my mind is currently on death in the time of social media. Let’s start with how the death of a little boy who I have never actually seen in the flesh rocked me. I have never interacted with this three-year-old – I know his mom though. He was born not too long before covid so there has not been many chance encounters at a weekly market or anything. There are actually a few people’s children who I have not seen yet in fear of carrying germs to them with covid and all (this includes my high school and work bestie’s kids because they were born last year (and I frequent hospitals like old-timey sailors are said to have frequented brothals)

The point is, despite never having seen this little boy I join a city in mourning because I know he loved storybooks, and swimming and that his mom shares the same parenting values I do. I know he was brought up in the church and that his mom was dreading cutting his hair if he went to mainstream school. I know this because of social media.

The same social media where I learned that an acquaintance died yesterday. Someone I’d share the occasional meme with. Someone who understood my weird sense of humor and would tell me she “gets me” in the DMS. Through social media I know she leaves behind a husband who was seeming head over heels with her and two boys who now have to navigate life without her. I don’t even know how many sugars she takes in her tea, but my heart loudly shouted: YOUR FRIEND DIED! yesterday while I scrolled through the stories of mutuals.

Social media is a trip. It makes it so that you form these bonds with people bonds that have you up in the middle of the night commiserating and laughing and sharing common interests without actually being part of the other person’s life. It makes you feel incredibly close yet completely separated.

My church has a WhatsApp group which Covid19 has turned into an obituary page. Much like my personal FB where aunty so and so’s daughter and that girl you used to sit next to at Sunday School both lost their husbands. I have also lost a few classmates and it stings despite your last interaction being a slight wave in a crowded mall.

So what’s the point of this post? I don’t know, maybe I’m just faced with my own mortality brought on by the lack of red blood cells in my body and me seeing more doctors than someone with a medical fetish doing speed dating. Maybe I’m wondering which picture will be shared on social media if I meet my untimely demise.

Will, someone make a Reel or video clip? (totally use If I die young the Glee version if you do).

I am not being flippant, or maybe I am, but I don’t mean to be, I just have a million thoughts and the main one is….social media, even if you don’t have a large following …you have more eyes on you than you may think. You may think that you are not making an impact, but you are….in your own little way you are. There’s some woman in a little town crying with you about your loss and some man laughing at your weird sense of humor, we are more connected than ever and somehow death is casting a much wider net than ever.

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