There have been a few losses, lately, around my life and community. Trusted mentors and benefactors have passed away: some peacefully and some painfully, and one even in a light plane crash. Some had lived a longer life than statistics would predict. Others were far too young to go.
Still, they all had one thing in common: the overwhelming response on Facebook.
Yes, profile photos taken to impress friends and attract mates scrolled past the bereaved by the dozen, offering peace-signs and fiesta filters and memories of drunken nights out. More than a fair few were even making Duck-Face while expressing their sympathies. Some called it a fitting tribute. Others called it an outpouring of genuine grief. I call it a disgrace.
Yes, I understand that profile photos, handles and taglines are permanently affixed to a Facebook account. I know that nobody put them there out of disrespect. It just feels, in this age of Tweet-Booking everything, like we aren’t making the same effort to show respect anymore.
Imagine yourself at a funeral, or even a wake, dressed in the Lycra you use for workouts, or in the dress that gets you the most attention in nightclubs. You wouldn’t arrive dressed that way, would you? You know it would be disrespectful, so you would put on something else. We even have a verb for that.
You would change.
Well, guess what, Faceboknians? Content on your account can be changed, too, including your profile photo. How about taking the pig-snout off your JPEG before telling me how sorry you are for my loss? Maybe you could cover your six-pack and stop flexing for the few days following someone’s death. Maybe it’s even OK to stop sucking in your cheeks; you don’t look that much sexier, anyway.
Or, better yet: let’s not use Facebook for everything. As a writer, I’m told by most industry professionals that social media is my only hope of getting published, and that my ability to write has almost nothing to do with it. After nearly a year grinning smugly about how silly that sounded, I came to accept that it is the new world’s truth. While I still don’t have a book for my own face, I can appreciate that social media has become the oxygen most people breathe… but condolences? Can’t we even use grief as a motivation to write out something more significant to family and friends? Can’t we find a more sombre venue to express our feelings about significant losses? Behind our screens, after all, we are still human beings.
Do we have to face everything like a duck would?