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A friend of mine sent me a letter – a real letter, in the mail with a handwritten address.  I was delighted.  In it I found an article from USA Today entitled, “Mourning 2.0”. 


One of the things it made me think of was the notion of "perspective".  While I think that on the one hand, its good for people to have an outlet for their grief online, on the other hand, a post about one's deceased uncle "looks and feels" like one about a new Victoria Secret item or a story about war-torn Syria.  


In other words, as we get used to seeing things on line, in the same mode and medium, no matter how spiffy the technology, the more we lose a sense of perspective in terms of the gravity of one situation as compared to another.  And in that moment, I think we lose a bit of our humanity, a sense of our real selves.  


In reality, at the loss of a loved one, tears wet the cheek, mourning physically hurts, and sometimes the only meaningful comfort is from a hug - even if it is from a stranger.


I remember 9/11.  I was supposed to be in the towers that day.  But that's another story.  When I saw it on TV and watched as many of my friends died, in disbelief, I took a walk down the bucolic street that I lived in Randolph, New Jersey.  


I remember the crystal clear blue sky, not a cloud to be seen.  I remember the smell of the air, not quite fall but I could sense it approaching.  Everything was so bright that day - the light shined.  


And I remember the quiet.  


The still moment.  


With planes grounded, there was no trace of noise in the sky.  At some point, I stopped, sat down on someone's lawn - who's I don't recall.  I started to weep, uncontrollably, heaving and barely able to catch my breath.  A neighbor, whom I had never met, came over to me.  He was tall, had dark hair and was about my age.  He looked me in the eye and then just hugged me in silence, he held me close.  Through the rage and pain and intense sorrow of the moment, that human connection is something that I'll never forget.


So, I suppose its easy to popularize technology as part of our culture.  And I can see why a USA Today puts a story like this on the front page.  And I know its really happening and I'm sure somewhere in the midst of things, something good comes from it.  But I also know that with every story like this, our memory of what it is to be human, deteriorates bit by bit, neuron by neuron, tear by tear.


I sincerely hope that we do not end up watching our loved ones pass us by like a banner ad on Facebook.


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Tags: technology and grief, technology and mourning, virtual distance

Comment by Terri Horton, MBA,MA on July 20, 2012 at 5:30pm

Hi Dr. Lojeski,

I really appreciate your perspective on the pervasive inclination to use technology and social media platforms to express emotion linked to various areas of our lives. The challenge for many is to decipher the appropriate application and use of social media as a platform of expression while juxtaposing this against future impact and unintended consequences.

Comment by Karen Sobel Lojeski on July 22, 2012 at 12:56pm

Dear Teri,

Thanks for the comment.  I agree.  Its very difficult to choose a medium that best supports our need for self-expression around our experiences.  Its not that one is "bad" and the other "good".  Its not a judgement call per se.  Its understanding the trade-offs of one versus another and thinking about those. Then, I think we choose the best medium we can for that moment.

Thanks again! Karen


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