Social Media and Death


Over the last couple of years I have seen this happen a few times.  I was reminded of it again a week ago when I saw a friend shoot out a Tweet about a blogger who had passed away and how devastated he was to find this out.

As someone who grew up in the 80’s I never fully imagined how advanced technology would be when I was 40 years old.  The leaps and bounds by which technology has advanced in the last 20 years is mind-blowing.  We can instantly talk with folks around the world in a heartbeat.  I can text, instant message, direct message or shoot an e-mail to anyone anywhere at anytime.  Today I can click on Skype on my computer or my cell phone and carry on a conversation as if the person is standing right next to me.  It feels like something out of the Jetsons.

I’ve never really considered myself a tech geek, but I guess you could call me one.  I absolutely enjoy technology and desire all the latest gadgets.  I use Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare and have been blogging for a couple of years.  I can maneuver my way through all of this fairly quickly.

I remember back when AOL was king.  I met a guy on a chat board for Promise Keepers and began exchanging e-mails.  That was 12 years ago.  Over the years we have used social media as a way in which we have grown closer and have a solid friendship.  The crazy part – we have never met each other face to face.  He lives across the country in Ohio.  We continue talking about when we are going to actually meet in person one day.  I enjoy how our friendship has developed and consider him a dear friend and brother.

Over the last couple of years my abilities to connect with others through social media has significantly increased.  I have over 40 people who I interact with on a regular basis through various means such as Twitter,  Facebook and Skyping as well as e-mails, phone calls and texting.   These are people I consider friends and greatly care about.  My life is richer and fuller knowing them and they are all people I met through social media.

In light of seeing my friend shoot out his Tweet and with the crazy and unpredictable weather, it has me thinking.  As we build relationships like this, what happens when we do die? How will folks know?  How long will it take before people realize you are no longer updating your status?  How will others find out?  I would venture to say the longer you use social media and build on these relationship,  you will be connected in ways you didn’t imagine.  Unlike real life where we usually attend funerals and celebrate the life of the person who has passed away,  what happens in the online world when you’ve tweeted your last tweet or posted your last post?  How will your life be celebrated?  Who will notify others of your passing?

While this is not meant to be morbid, death is a real part of life.  Have you thought about this? How would you want others to know you were gone, have you made plans for that to happen? 

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About Chris Goforth

West Coast Hipster Ninja husband and Papa- allowing Jesus to impact every aspect of my life while raising 6 kids, taking photos, being outdoors & playing Settles of Catan. View all posts by Chris Goforth

12 responses to “Social Media and Death

  • Gary

    Darn it, Chris, I was all but successful in my pledge not to respond to any of my regular posting comrades and focus on The Book writing. But this thought is so original and so provoking, I had to both give it thought AND comment (when do you hold confessions?). Maybe it’s because I have stage 4 of a slow growing prostate cancer. Still, lottsa years. I think. BUT, when He calls, I can picture the scene around my bed, then the ceremony. Son-in-law and two oldest grandsons will be on their way to our old ranch in Colorado with the ashes. Horseback up to our favorite ride….whooooosh there he–who is no longer “he” but a memory–goes!

    Then Chris pops up with a Tweet? Or, by then my book would have sold into the billions, will there be a Twitter or FaceBook remembrance? Will it mean anything? How will the story of my life (very full, very complicated)be told? Maybe the sm nets will by then have an “in memoriam” channel and friends put in thoughts.

    OK, sounds like a post to come, doesn’t it. Here’s my bottom line for now. What matters to me, no matter the billions of Tweets and posting honoring me, is the status of my living legacy in the lives of six good and godly grandchildren, and will God use them to lighten a darkening world? I’ve begun notations in my “Finishing Well” leg of the journey on my personal blog, Wild Gray Goose (www.newseason.us).

  • Duane Scott

    Chris,

    This is interesting to me. I’ve decided that I will need to have a contact person online.I’ve alerted that person and my wife knows that person. That person has access to my wordpress info. In case of an event such as death, that person could simply notify everyone.

    I don’t see any other way! But it seems so impersonal.

    • Goforth's Journal

      Duane that is good, I’m glad to hear you did that. After you tweeted that it just made me think a lot about it and such was born this post. Sorry for your loss, but hopefully it will make others think and be planning.

  • Larry Hehn

    Wow, funny you should mention this, Chris. I was thinking about it just afew days ago. I thought of people like Danny Gans, who still has a significant web presence even after passing away. I wondered, would someone know how to access my site and social media accounts, and let others know when I pass on, or will they just sort of fizzle and slowly fall off the radar screen?

    I think it would be a really good idea to plan ahead for stuff like that, as a courtesy for our followers, friends and family. It may seem a bit morbid, but I think it’s the thoughtful thing to do.

    • Goforth's Journal

      Yes you are right Larry, great suggestions. I know for me if I don’t hear from someone like yourself that I have connected with for over a week, I do start worrying something has happened and try and get in touch with them, just to know they are ok.

  • michael

    I can’t believe it’s been 12 years. I’ve been blessed to count you as a friend. Great post!

    • Goforth's Journal

      Yeah as I as writing it I was reflecting back on how many kids I had at the time. It is so hard to believe it’s been that long and I don’t think it should be that long before we actually see each other face to face. 3 – 5 more years tops and then we just do it.

  • Moe

    I remember once getting a tweet from someone’s spouse saying that she had passed away. That was so sad.

    I agree with Larry that we should have a spouse, or someone we trust to send out some communication that we have gone.

    Or we can just assume that if all of a sudden you stop and never hear from someone for a while that something has happened.

    Chris: if all of a sudden you don’t hear from me for more than 3 days, you can start remembering me man! 😦

    • Goforth's Journal

      Yes very true my friend. If I don’t here from you within 3 days, I will be extremely worried and send in the Police or Ninjas to look for you. I know we won’t be around for ever, and for those of us as believers we should be rejoicing that you are now in your rightful home, but it still doesn’t take the sadness away.
      Good suggestions, appreciate that.

  • Chris (twistedxtian)

    I wrote a post on this a while back when a blogging friend of mine was really sick and in the hospital. It’s not something many think about, but is very much a reality in this growing virtual world that we live in.

    • Goforth's Journal

      Hey Chris, yes now that you mentioned that I do remember you posting about it. It is very true with the way our world is and something we need to be mindful of. I know all of us won’t be here forever so when that day comes at least we can celebrate people’s lives in the best way possible.

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    […] and fuller because of them.  But, what happens when you die?  Who tells your online friends?  In this post, Chris talks about the morbidity of alerting your online friends to your […]

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