December 13, 2010

When life or death is a status...

... on Facebook.

ADDED: I received email from a man whose 18-year-old son died in an accident:
Because he graduated from high school in June, most of his friends are also college freshmen, and in September were newly scattered to the four winds, nowhere near their closest friends and not yet having developed close friendships in their new schools.... [They] posted hundreds of messages to his wall in the weeks following his death, and they continue to post there. These comments have brought, and bring, considerable solace to them, and to my wife, our daughter, and me.

And it was through Facebook that we were able to arrange with [his] friends all over North America to offer a tribute to him when they were home for Thanksgiving. We used Facebook to put out a call for ideas, and his friends used it to get together over long distances and decide how to pay tribute....

So now I have a use for Facebook, and I have more respect for its role in life and society than I ever thought I might. It can be a useful thing, and can bring comfort. To my surprise, it can bring people together and sustain them though emotional turbulence. From our family's vantage point at least, the benefits of Facebook outweigh whatever deleterious side-effects it might have.

56 comments:

paul a'barge said...

That's a tough one to read.

edutcher said...

That the Internet creates community is one of the great things about it. People can share joy and sorrow and draw strength from one another. This used to be the function of physical communities (sad to say, it's much less now). This lady touched a lot of hearts and they're a little better for it.

In a less intense way, that's what happens on Althouse. A lot of people have met other good people here.

traditionalguy said...

Life is real great ride. Don't let anyone steal having and raising your children from you.

Quayle said...

I'm gonna vote "no".

Facebook simulates close community and it simulates pain.

But it ain't either, and it isn't even a close call.

At best it enables former geographic communities to more efficiently stay in touch, but it doesn't replicate geographic communities.

And lost of pain just won't readily go away, no matter how many frowning-faced emoticons are appended or how many times "I don't like this" is mouse-clicked.

Coketown said...

That is a sad story. But I still don't understand the compulsive need to broadcast everything one does to the world.

Quayle said...

....And lots of pain just won't readily go away...

ricpic said...

The franticness is a bit much.

Ann Althouse said...

raising your children from you."

Not even God? He's such a thief.

Ann Althouse said...

"But I still don't understand the compulsive need to broadcast everything one does to the world."

It's not compulsive. And it's not to the world. It's the way people send news to their friends and family now. This is what human life is becoming. We need to absord this and understand it. Life will be like this. Status updates... until there's an update that was written by someone else, telling you your friend is gone.

Methadras said...

I read the updates and as I did, there was this type of disassociation from the terrible tragedy that was unfolding that I felt. Not because I didn't know this woman, but probably because as I read it, I kept thinking of how egotistical, if not somewhat narcissistic the whole thing was. Being that frank and open even amongst your FB friends isn't for me and I've been on FB since it started.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

I'm just glad the New York Times lost one more subscriber.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"It's the way people send news to their friends and family now."

No it isn't.

Facebook and Twitter are the way idiots give marketers valuable personal information about their network of friends and family connections (which is then, of course, made available to the government for use against you in a court of law any time you get into any legal trouble).

Anyone with a Facebook account is a fucking moron unconcerned about their privacy or personal freedom (as evidenced by this sordid affair) and every single one of them will regret it in ways they never took a moment to contemplate.

Coketown said...

"It's not compulsive. And it's not to the world. It's the way people send news to their friends and family now."

It is compulsive! I have several friends and family members on facebook who update constantly, trivially, and get irritable and antsy when they aren't updating or checking their friends' statuses--like during Thanksgiving dinner. Then we find my brother updated from his phone: "So bored."

This may be what human life is becoming, and it's creepy. There is no distinction or classification of loved ones. No best friends and family vs. acquaintances. Now mom and dad get the same information as Betty Sue, with whom you shared a home economics class in junior high. I can see how people think it's a good thing, but I find it unsettling.

I'd rather people knew I died from the pungent stink of my decomposing corpse. Not a status update on a website. How tasteless!

SteveR said...

Ham just STFU, you don't know me, you don't know them and calling everyone on Facebook a moron is an utterly stupid thing to say.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"alling everyone on Facebook a moron is an utterly stupid thing to say."

I didn't say that.

I said they're morons unconcerned with their personal privacy and freedoms.

Everything you do on Facebook ... everything you write, everyone you know, everything you play ... is tracked in minute detail and is made available to the FBI or any other government demand the moment you get into any legal trouble.

You are a moron if you participate willingly in that sort of an endeavor and you deserve the ass-fucking you will surely get one day when it is used against you.

If I wanted to destroy America ... first thing I'd do is create Facebook and start figuring out who I gotta kill.

holdfast said...

Ok, the 2 from beyond the grave were a bit creeps, but mostly it's just very sad.

It depends on what you use FB for - if you have a relatively modest number of friends, and have your privacy setting turned all the way up, then I think it is ok to be pretty personal.

FWIW, my wife and I went through some pretty rough stuff with the birth of our little dude - he was severely early, and she was pretty ill, though I didn't realize until a while later just how ill. Our natural reaction was to go into lockdown and avoid social media and email, speaking only to family and very close friends on the phone, in part I think because we didn't want to disseminate any good news that would turn out to be false later.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"It is compulsive!"

They test billions of variables to ensure that it must be maximally irresistible to the largest number of users.

Everything Facebook does is tested and probed to see whether, or not, it results in compulsive behavior.

If it does not, that feature is dropped.

If it does, that feature is added ... until they stumble upon the next addictive feature.

And the next.

And the next.

And the next.

If you willingly enter their arena then you have self-identified as a buffoon.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"... and have your privacy setting turned all the way up ..."

You didn't just say that.

Did you?

You need to revisit the terms of service for Facebook. There is no privacy promised nor given.

At any moment, Facebook can and will turn over everything you've ever written on Facebook and lists of all your friends and contacts and people six degrees from you to the government.

For whatever purpose the government wants to use it for.

Don't fucking friend me.

When they come for you, I don't want them coming for me.

Facebook would be a Nazi's best fucking buddy.

Coketown said...

"If you willingly enter their arena then you have self-identified as a buffoon."

I don't have a real facebook page. I just have a fake facebook page to spy on people who won't date me.

Seven Machos said...

It is my belief that using Fecebook way too much is an almost certain indicator of an ineffable hollowness in your own soul.

SteveR said...

Gee Ham you want to buy some gold?

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"Gee Ham you want to buy some gold?"

How about you read this first:

http://www.facebook.com/policy.php

Chip Ahoy said...

Hpy bd nt Betty, sur hop ur hvn a gd dy.

Good, that takes care of that. Now I don't have to call her or pick out and appropriate card, write an actual expression of fondness on it, then actually mail the thing.

O btw I luv chklt chp cukies. pls i luv my wyf w all mi hart.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

Facebook Privacy Policy:

"We may disclose information pursuant to subpoenas, court orders, or other requests (including criminal and civil matters) if we have a good faith belief that the response is required by law. This may include respecting requests from jurisdictions outside of the United States where we have a good faith belief that the response is required by law under the local laws in that jurisdiction, apply to users from that jurisdiction, and are consistent with generally accepted international standards. We may also share information when we have a good faith belief it is necessary to prevent fraud or other illegal activity, to prevent imminent bodily harm, or to protect ourselves and you from people violating our Statement of Rights and Responsibilities. This may include sharing information with other companies, lawyers, courts or other government entities."

Facebook is how foreign governments are tracking "problem" people.

And the founders of Facebook are only too happy to oblige with that information ... for a small fee of course ... in providing foreign governments with information about those people and their close, personal friends.

If you're on Facebook ... you're part of the problem.

The Nazi's best friend: a list.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"pls i luv my wyf w all mi hart."

Yeah, that's what I want to know.

How fast did Dad's status get updated to: "Single And Looking!"

Chip Ahoy said...

Please help Brenda earn points to plant a crop on FarmVille.

Alex said...

Then we find my brother updated from his phone: "So bored."

This may be what human life is becoming, and it's creepy.


You know what they say about idle hands. If your brother is so bored, he should get himself busy improving his career or get a degree. Idle hands, tsk tsk.

MadisonMan said...

If it were me doing that, I'd have a subset of friends -- my family -- for whom I would post updates. Broadcasting your entire life to everyone who friends you? That's too much information sharing.

Coketown said...

Alex: You don't know the half of it. If you want to convince him to put his hyperactivity to better use you'll need to stand in line.

Tsk tsk.

James said...

“FarmVille” Interruption Cited in Baby’s Murder

"A 22-year-old mother from Jacksonville, Florida, has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for shaking her 3-month-old son to death after his crying interrupted her FarmVille game.

The mother, Alexandra V. Tobias, was arrested in January and declared her plea on Wednesday before Circuit Judge Adrian G. Soud, The Florida Times-Union reports."

MadisonMan said...

Then we find my brother updated from his phone: "So bored."

Next year put him to work so he has no time to be bored.

Maybe next year's update will be: Painted my brother's bathroom on Thanksgiving. This is not a vacation.

Seven Machos said...

I trust you all have read about the very shady company that makes these Farmville-type games. Big article recently. Very enlightening and sad.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

Facebook Privacy Nugget:

"You will not use Facebook to do anything misleading."

But they can.

Palladian said...

"Ham just STFU, you don't know me, you don't know them and calling everyone on Facebook a moron is an utterly stupid thing to say."

NewHam specializes in saying utterly stupid things.

The NewHams of the web are another reality of this digital universe we have to learn to accept. There will always be people who use the anonymity of the web to bleed themselves of bilious humors whenever possible, and in the most inappropriate places. People have always had these sorts of inappropriate, spiteful, angry, vituperative thoughts but most kept them to themselves. The web finally gave people the chance to "voice" these thoughts without the fear of social ostracism and physical retribution that would have accompanied such outbursts in the physical realm.

Think of the web as a giant Ego serving the unknowable Id of humanity, and with no Superego in sight.
Anyway, there's nothing wrong with experiencing human emotions over people and events that appear on the web, people and events that you may have no other connection with than your internet connection. After all, we let religion, art, music, drama and poetry move us to extreme emotional states. The web is just another manifestation of our ancient and salvational power of empathy.

MadisonMan said...

Let me add that the lady who died from postpartum myopathy was described at her funeral as the person everyone knows. Telling everyone everything is a way to be the person everyone knows. So at least she was consistent with her psyche. To thine own self be true and all that.

If it's too much for a fb friend to handle, you can always defriend her.

Palladian said...

And, by the way, I don't use Facebook, Twitter or any other social networking website.

SteveR said...

Facebooks list. oooh me and 500 million people are in grave danger. There's nothing on my FB that my IP doesn't say or that's not on some other website, my church directory or a hundred other places. People are stupid and compulsive about, and with, a million things way before FB and long after its gone.

Heck Palladian knows your bank account numbers from your Google profile.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"And, by the way, I don't use Facebook, Twitter or any other social networking website."

Why do you not?

Rialby said...

Man, that's awful. RIP. I wish the best for her poor family.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"There's nothing on my FB that my IP doesn't say ..."

Couldn't agree more. If you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to fear from the government reading everything you write and think and knowing who your friends are. Who you associate with. Who your co-conspirators are.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OdyKJ1xXph8

garage mahal said...

Haha. There's some poor government bureaucrat somewhere tasked to follow New Ham on the internet, wondering who he pissed off to get that job.

Lem said...

I don't need Facebook to get my Elisabeth Edwards ;)

New "Hussein" Ham said...

You don't even have to have a Facebook account to be traced:

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1717563

deborah said...

Palladian:
"And, by the way, I don't use Facebook, Twitter or any other social networking website."

Luddite! And I'll bet you weigh more than a duck!

I don't use them either. Unless you count comment sections, which I think are networky.

lyssalovelyredhead said...

I don't follow the privacy angle. I understand if you want to keep your medical status private or limited, but personally, I wouldn't have any reason to in most situations, and clearly these folks didn't, either.

They weren't broadcasting anything that they wouldn't tell anyone who asked; what's the big deal?

- Lyssa

Ann Althouse said...

If I could push a button and delete all the comments from people who didn't read what's at the link, I would.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

"If I could push a button and delete all the comments from people who didn't read what's at the link, I would."

We all read it.

It was stupid NY Times sentimentalism draped up as some new-age morality play bullshit ... probably made up.

The larger issue is Facebook itself. What is Facebook ... in reality?

It has nothing to do with how people communicate.

It has everything to do with how people are being manipulated by unscrupulous companies working hand-in-hand with the government ... and this story proves it.

New "Hussein" Ham said...

Two Words:

Jason.
Blaire.

Methadras said...

Seven Machos said...

I trust you all have read about the very shady company that makes these Farmville-type games. Big article recently. Very enlightening and sad.


Zynga is shady as hell.

Martha said...

New "Hussein" HAM said: "It was stupid NY Times sentimentalism draped up as some new-age morality play bullshit ... probably made up."

I believe the Facebook story was published by the Washington Post--not the New York Times.

And I doubt the tragic story was made up.

Pregnancy and childbirth can be risky to the mother's health and stories like this one serve to remind readers that illness can occur even after giving birth. For example, pre-eclampsia can manifest post-partum. In this case, post-partum cardiac myopathy caused the death of the new mother. Tragic.

HKatz said...

They weren't broadcasting anything that they wouldn't tell anyone who asked; what's the big deal?

Interesting - if they were living in a small town, people around them would know most of these details one way or another, the ups and downs, the signs of optimistic recovery giving way to tragedy. It would be talked about, the info passed from one person to another, radiating out from the household; here the people at the center of it are broadcasting the messages to everyone from the beginning with an immediacy, not just a story rippling out over time. Not as much uncertainty or speculation about what's happening at any immediate moment.

The concluding post though, when the husband is saying on Facebook how much he loves his wife, I felt I had to look away from that. And the five "likes" below it were absurd. (They "like" the fact that a husband loves his wife who recently died; and there are a certain number of likes tallied up for that - you can't find words to say to someone in grief, so you 'like' their sentiments...)

The precariousness of life - all those joys and worries, and all these little ordinary details, a whole string of them (one Facebook post after another) suddenly cut short.

Penny said...

For all the connection that these people felt they had through their FB communications, they really had no idea of the seriousness of her problem. Her writing "tone" was the same from beginning to her last post. Her two line comments remained fairly casual throughout.

So this is an example of future "communication"? This is an example of being "close" and "in constant contact"?

Penny said...

A reminder from Jaron Lanier and his latest book ..."You Are Not a Gadget"

amba said...

Now I know you didn't read it--what New York Times sentimentalism? It was in the Washington Post.

To me, this is not much different from life in a village, where everyone knows your business and those who don't know it firsthand are gossiping about it. Someone pointed out that we each have about as many friends and acquaintances as the size of a hunter-gatherer tribe.

howzerdo said...

If there was a "like" button here, I would click it for Althouse's 12/13 6:39 PM comment: This is what human life is becoming. We need to absord this and understand it. Life will be like this.

Not because I "like" that this is what human life is becoming ("neutral" would be the one word description of my feelings), but because she's right.

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