Grief in the age of Facebook

Touching words

Grief in the age of Facebook

What’s great about the Internet is also sometimes what makes the Internet most horrifying. With millions of users tweeting, blogging, texting, posting or pinging, news travels faster than the speed of light – especially bad news.

And sometimes that may not be a good thing. Sujata Survase, the air hostess on the ill-fated Air India Express put her last post on Facebook, which was strangely prophetic. She wrote, “I hate goodbyes but I guess it’s time!”. However, ten days ago she posted something even more disturbing, “Diversion+Delay+KWI sector equals to quick death.”

Aaron Joel Fernandes, another sixteen-year-old victim on the doomed flight will probably be remembered by his collegemates, who didn’t know him too well, by his last facebook post which read, “Getting bored in the airport. Can’t wait to reach Mangalore.” eartbreaking and ironic.

Harshini Poonja, the vivacious 17-year-old’s last tweet read, “At the airport and blah=-=. Only thing to look forward to is the rain.” While an earlier excerpt from her blog reads: “No one knows what's going to happen. Be happy for everything that’s there now.”
Vanita Narayan lost her younger sister in a road accident three years ago and the family is still devastated. Especially by postings that still regularly appear online about Tanvi. “Nothing is sacrosanct. Privacy is passe and people are ‘cool’ with posting personal details of their lives on public forums. But what about in death? I lost my sister when she was only sixteen. I was very uncomfortable with all the posts that talked about her private life even though they were sympathy posts.”

A Mumbai teenager Adnan Patrawala, son of a businessman, was trapped on Orkut, kidnapped and later brutally murdered. Adnan’s Orkut profile read, “I love mobiles, friends, my mother, fast driving, humourous, good looking (sic) ...,” a typical teenage post, especially tragic in the light of what happened.

Traditional mourning is governed by conventions. But in the age of the Internet, everyone from close friends to movie stars, thinks it’s OK to express sympathy or exuberance online.

Sujata’s networking profile also reads, “She believed in Buddhist philosophy, loved dancing to hip hop, swore by the television show Friends and hated books, which she mischievously described as "good sleeping pills”. Private details that would have stayed private before social networking sites came of age.

“On the one hand, I feel  repelled that something as private and traumatic as death can be publicised in this fashion. But on the other hand, maybe it’s a good way for acquaintances as well as the family of the deceased to find closure,” says Serena Lobo, a family friend of one of the victims on board.

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