The Knee-Jerk Reliance on Social Media

social-media-1430512_640For the past three years, I’ve been an enthusiastic participant in NaNoWriMo, otherwise known as National Novel Writing Month. This year was different. Many factors led to my decision to not participate.

One reason is that I have my fantasy series drafted. All four novels. I can hardly believe I’ve got them all on paper.

Now I’m on what I think is the hardest part: revision. If there was a NaNo for revising a novel, I’d be the first one to sign up.

Another reason is that I didn’t have an idea for a new novel to work on anyway.

The third reason is that life got in the way.

I knew that this November, I had a lot of prior commitments that couldn’t be put off. A conference, A short trip to celebrate our 9th wedding anniversary. A week away to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family.

So I thought I’d skip it this year.

My decision turned out to be a good one.

Halfway through the month, we got one of those dreaded midnight calls. First the landline rang. We ignored it. Then the cell phones started ringing. That was when we know someone wanted to get hold of us.

And then we learned a beloved niece had died, unexpectedly and inexplicably.

We moved through the next days, going through the motions. My husband described the feeling like having a flat tire.

Nine days later, I learned of the death of my dear friend, Anjuli Nayak. I had the privilege of ghostwriting her memoir Plucked from a Mango Tree. Her death, while sad, was not a shock. She battled Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia for nearly six years.

In the midst of grieving, we found that well-meaning friends and relatives made things worse.

Some of them seemed to have a knee-jerk reaction to publicize the news of death, and their feelings about it.

These seemed to be an invitation for condolences. While we all grieve in our own ways, the feelings of the closest person or people to the loss need to be considered. If they haven’t posted anything publicly, there might be a very good reason for it.

Maybe they are trying to decide how to notify others, and when.

Or maybe they don’t want to inform to world of a sudden, tragic death. Some people might want a few days to process the loss, without having to deal with questions from casual friends and acquaintances.

Others put up lovely tributes, expressing their appreciation for the departed, and their hope that they are in a better place.

On the surface, that seems like a thoughtful thing to do.

But again, it’s for the closest family member to decide when to start this.

And it’s never right to reveal the person’s secrets or their personal struggles that they have chosen to share with only those closest to them. Even the dead have some right to privacy.

Because of this rush to publicize, we found ourselves in the awkward and painful position of having to ask people to take down posts until we got word from our niece’s sister what she wanted to do.

Which brings me to a larger question.

What is this need to share everything with everyone?

For some people, it’s almost like a knee-jerk reaction. Something happens, publicize it. See how many people respond.

We throw our words out into the ether, hoping for connection. That’s not a bad thing.

But we need to think before we post, of how our words can affect others, how our words can be taken.

Social media can be a wonderful thing. But its lightning fast communication can be used to delight or to pain.

This experience is a reminder to me.

Think before you post.



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