Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The one in which Facebook status updates give me nightmares

I sometimes feel as though Facebook gives me way too much information about people's lives. Because of my live feed, I know about casual acquaintances' rampant back-and-forth relationship statuses.... Ann is now single, Ann is now in a relationship with Ryan, Ann changed her relationship status to It's Complicated. I found out that my high school music teacher left his wife via Facebook. Even though I knew my sister and her live-in boyfriend were on the verge of splitting, Facebook provided me with the official notice before the phone rang. Pregnancies and births are old hat at this point via my home page. Hell, I found out an old friend was getting breast implants from her status updates.


Since we've covered relationship statuses and medical procedures, apparently tragedy is the next big ground for Facebook to seize onto. One woman I know detailed her mom's heartbreaking sudden diagnosis with terminal cancer, starting with "Carrie can't think of any way to tell Facebook her mom is dying" to "Carrie's mom died today." Psychgrad previously wrote about someone whose mourning led them to post pictures of their dead mother.

Last night, I was scrolling through status updates, when an old high school friend's caught my eye. "Rebecca is shocked. RIP Anton." My mind immediately goes to Anton, a mutual friend, whose mother used to make us chocolate chip pancakes, who had a catapult in his backyard, who played a mournful song on the saxophone in the school courtyard when Marissa died, who was tall, quiet, and unaware of all the girls pining after him, who is now studying art. I shoot her off a quick message, asking her if it was indeed that Anton.

I start clicking through other friends pages rapidly. He is not on Facebook, but his sister is, and her profile picture is of her and him in the outdoors. There is nothing out of the ordinary there. I know that if the update was "RIP John", I might give it some passing thought, but Anton was too rare of a name for me to just discard it. I hate myself for wishing this misfortune on another Anton, not my Anton.

We curl up on the couch. I watch TV. I try not to ruminate, as I know this is my pattern, and there is no use grieving until I know the truth. I also know that, in all probability, it is someone else. At the same time, I feel a little guilty laughing.

No reply by midnight. I crawl under the covers. I dream that I log into Facebook and have many, many messages, all from Anton and I's friends. They tell me he had a recessive genetic condition that let to him collapsing after having a few drinks. They share memories of him. In this dream, I am checking my laptop in bed, so when I wake up in that same bed, it takes me a moment to shake the feelings off.

Still no message from Rebecca when I awoke. I start to vaguely resent her for putting up these words, for not knowing how many people would see them and worry about our Anton. At the same time, I know this is not fair to hold someone in mourning to my standards of logic.

Finally, at 9:08am, one line. "No another Anton."

She changes her status to clarify this, and I see she has joined a group in memorial of this Anton. He looks young and happy. 
And I lament for the people who are going to find of his passing by an invitation to join a Facebook group.

37 comments:

Crushed said...

I'm not on there as me, only as Crushed, so it's only really as another way of keeping in touch with bloggers.
And ex work colleagues as well.

I guess it wouldn't be a nice way to find out about someone's death, no.

I'm still not quite sure I quite get the point of Facebook, actually. I mainly use it to put photos on.

Deutlich said...

I had to change my status the other day to clarify it was David G I was talking about for this exact reason, seeing as how I have a friend named David too.

Arielle said...

A friend of mine from college passed away a year and a half ago, and I left a fairly urgent voicemail for a friend so she would call me back and I could tell her the news. She never called but she sent me an email the next day saying "Hey, I just saw that Graham joined the RIP Jon group so I assume that's what you called about last night, sorry I didn't call you back." Wouldn't she have rather heard via phone call instead of Facebook news feed? Who knows.

Yoda said...

People like me who lead sad lonely lives will be lucky if there's even a Facebook group of my friends if I were to die :-(

Paula said...

A couple of years back I was on friends reunited (you know, back in the days before social networking was the "in" thing) and I saw an update under a guy's profile from my year at school which said he had been killed in a car crash shortly before (2002/2003 this was). I didn't particularly know the guy, hell I don't remember even particularly LIKING the guy but it totally freaked me out. It looked like the update had been made by his sis (also in my year - they had been nine months apart) so I believed it must be true.

I thought about it on and off for years. Then when I joined bebo last year and "met" former classmates, I found he had a profile site! He wasn't dead! Although I'm sure his update on friends reunited still says he is. I never asked about it, and don't know whether he did it himself as a sick joke or it was at someone else's hands. But I couldn't believe I'd been worrying over the premature death of a guy I barely knew for years when he had been alive all along!

Such is the power of the internet . . .

Nilsa said...

That's a really interesting post. I'm relatively new to Facebook and have yet to learn of news there I didn't already know. But, there are boundaries that many of us choose to cross when we put ourselves out there in the Internet. I'm going to have to let this one marinate a bit...

Ant said...

I have a Facebook account but use it minimally. The way it trivialises people's lives simply by having a "Relationship:" option I find cringe-worthy. The fact that it is used to communicate someone's death is borderline sickening.

By it's very nature it facilitates ephemeral and trivial connections - people put way too much stock into this (or just don't think about it) and suddenly life-changing private events are being published as public spectacles.

Actually, thinking about it just now, it's akin to watching celebrity's lives unfold in the tabloids, and all the trashy connotations therein.

S. said...

Wow. That's pretty awful.

Essentially Me said...

I'm glad that it wasn't your friend. But I agree about finding bad news out on Facebook has to be the hardest way to hear it.

Larissa said...

Facebook is such a strange phenomenon. It builds connections between people, but at the same time, highlights how little we're truly connected.

Z said...

I agree on the odd Facebook notification phenomenon... I've learned about divorces and break-ups and hook ups and all kinds of weird things to be learning about via status notifications...

Crashdummie said...

Facebook.. its a love/hate relationship. I use it alot to keep in touch with my friends, but somehow ppl manage to stalk up and add me and you are amazed why they bother adding u.

And info, i agree, there are just some things I dont wanna know abt my friends or their mates.

javajune said...

okay I have herd a lot and seen a lot but the dead mother picture on face book really creeped me out. I am all for sharing but somethings cross the line.
jj

Caz said...

Lately I've really minimized my facebooking and I love it. While I still use it to find out what my UBC friends are up to, I no longer use it to plan my Friday nights, waste time at work, and/or rehash previous parties. While most people here in Aus have facebook, they seem to be a lot less "online" than NA-ers are and actually CALL or TEXT if there's a party happening or plans to be made. I like reverting to this because it reconnects you with people, making them more likely to attend (and avoids the dreaded "maybe attending")

Also, I too have had Facebook dreams (and have found out aquaintences deaths via FB).

rs27 said...

Facebook is a great way to tell your ex-boyfriends that you have chlamydia though.

Oh only I found out that way?

whoops.

Maxie said...

I hate it when couples going through trouble change it to "it's complicated" when they're still living together and everything... give me a break-- the world doesn't need to know about every little problem.

Ugh

sequined said...

I think people do too much communicating via facebook. Wedding invitations? No, please.

And it's not like, connecting-style communication--it's just broadcasting a thought and then reading other people's broadcasts. Like standing in a valley and listening to echoes, when you can't see anyone saying anything. I find it kind of sad.

Meghan said...

I don't think people realize that when they put updates on their personal life on there just how many people see it/it affects/look at facebook for gossip.

Katelin said...

i have definitely discovered people's engagements, health issues, babies and everything else imaginable from facebook, it's sort of crazy.

and glad to hear it wasn't your anton, but still sad nonetheless.

Fermi said...

one of my friends from high school died and he is still on facebook. That is when it gets weird. You look on his wall and read all of these "prayers."

Daisy said...

Oh why oh why couldn't Emily Post's etiquette include Facebook? It would solve so many problems.

Jess said...

It's a double-edged sword. It sucks to find out through Facebook, but at the same time isn't that better than not finding out at all? Or maybe not...

surviving myself said...

The same goes for blogs. Sometimes I read a blog and it's telling me all about someone who died or something really personal, and I'm just like, "Uh, let's keep that to ourselves. Or maybe even just people you actually know."

Kat from Tough Girl 101 said...

hmm. I wrote this http://katargonza.com/?p=140 after I changed my status on Facebook. I took down my status because it was just too much for me!

whoissecretdubai said...

a humble request...(for anyone not allowing this post through--not spam--)

Anyone happen to know who Secret Dubai (the blogger: secretdubai.blogspot.com) is?

http://whoissecretdubai.blogspot.com/

Surfergrrl said...

wow that's sad. i'm not surprised about the facebook thing either. i think people forget there is an audience out there reading this stuff.

I had a big discussion about this with a friend. He is always posting about how he was out with his "favorite friends." stuff like that. I said that he should try and be a little more sensitive to his good friends who may have not been invited to something.

I have another fb friend who constantly status updates really negative things ALL the time. S feels crappy right now. S wonders when life will get better. S's grandma is ill...etc. It's kind of strange frankly. I can see that kind of thing from time to time, but every status update?

So@24 said...

I dunno. Something makes me uncomfortable about Facebook groups that serve as memorials to people who have passed.

"Will you be attending: Aston's Wake"

It just seems weird.

the frog princess said...

I found out that my high school science teacher had died via Facebook. I was invited to join a group for something HS related and in the "related groups" box was a memorial to him.

It shocked the hell out of me, but I'm glad I found out. I still haven't been able to find out *how* he died, but he was just about the cleanest-living person I've ever known, so it was probably Cancer, 'cause life's a bitch like that...

Lauren said...

This was a really good post. I agree,it's weird how we're informed of things via facebook. I like the website, I do, but I tend to shy away from anouncing stuff on it. Like when the boy and I got back together, we didn't change our relationship statuses to let the world know. We just didn't CARE that much. When my grandfather passed away, it wasn't my status message.

I heard of many engagements, babies, break ups through facebook. And, yes, once I heard of a death. And it's terribly sad to find out that way.

eric1313 said...

I have a facebook account... I use it primarily to talk to Crashie.

Don't have much use for it, especially since we just write each other most of the time anyway.

Babs said...

that totally happened to me the other day! except I ended up knowing the person :(

fb kind-of sucks

Jocelyn said...

Our current posts share a topic. However, you have lived what I have avoided.

Weirdness, honey.

chasinglibby said...

i got invited to wedding via facebook.

what is our generation coming to?

Psychgrad said...

I feel like social networking almost forces people into become voyeurs. Ok...I know I don't have to be a member of Facebook. It's nice to be able to keep up with friends, but I really don't need to know that many details about someone's life. It feels like it cheapens the life experience to have it accessible to so many people.

JessWrites said...

Wow... I haven't thought of facebook quite in that way before. I know it gives us way too much information about each other... but you're right, it can be scary how much we learn from it... if these people are truly our friends, we shouldn't have to learn about their lives via an online social networking site.

Sheila said...

Oh PP, I am sorry you had to find out about your friend this way. At the same time, I wonder when you would've found out.

I have yet to join facebook or twitter like most of my friends. I guess I kind of feel it removes one more barrier of privacy... who knows, I may give in one day...

Therapeutic Ramblings said...

I couldn't bring myself to update FB with my mother's death. I couldn't do it. It isn't that it would have made it real, but I didn't/couldn't deal with the responses. Word still got out...but for whatever reason, I just couldn't put it on FB or Myspace. Life is weird sometimes.