Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Misconstrued Perception of Facebook

I have had a hell of a start to my new year. First, my grandmother dies unexpectedly at the age of 74...almost a year to the date of when her mother, who was 94, passed away. I live 3000 miles away from my family and hadn't seen granny since my nana's funeral. So besides the demon's that I'm personally dealing with there...there's also the small implication of finding out from my friend, as opposed to my parent's, that my grandmother passed. How, do you wonder aloud, is that possible? Facebook. My younger brother posted "RIP Granny" on his facebook page which showed up on my friend's page who I happened to call after work that particular day. It was a rather short phone call before I called my parent's house in CT only to find out, in better detail, what had happened. My 22 year old brother was not alone - apparently my 29 year old cousin, also male, did the same exact thing. Both were asked by one of my aunt's to immediately take it down, both felt insulted and left it on their page. I am still dealing with the death of my grandmother - and have found it hard to explain to my younger brother...and ultimately my father, why he was in the wrong.

And now it's Saturday, February 12, 2011. One month after I flew back to Maryland to say good-bye to my grandmother. Typical Saturday morning - I'm checking out my personal email and facebook, catching up with what's going on, and that same male cousin who posted a comment on my granny's death BEFORE everyone knew about it posted the message "rushing to york hospital". His father has been sick for a while...but nothing that needs to be rushed. At least not that I'm aware panic sets in. This horror that I'm going to find out tragic news again via Facebook has me calling home without realizing I'm dialing the numbers. My uncle is in ICU with a bleeding brain. Well, I believe they've stopped the bleeding. And they're not sure if the left side of his body will remain paralyzed or if it's temporary that with physical therapy, can be helped. Should I be happy that by checking the internet first, I found out my uncle is gravely ill. My parents were waiting until 6pm to tell me (as opposed to when I called at 5) that my grandmother died because they knew I would be at work and wanted me to be in a place where I wouldn't have to drive. Considering I bawled the entire way home while having moments of hyperventilating, probably good instincts on my parents. Unfortunately, technology squashed their intentions...damnit.

I read the message on Facebook a few hours after it was posted. My mom had received the information on my uncle about 20 minutes before I called. Information moves fast. Her brother is terribly ill and I gave her no time to process what she learned because I had no information and felt like I was behind on what was happening. Once upon a time, I wouldn't have been upset that I wasn't in the immediate loop. My parents would have told me when they could tell me and I would have inevitably found out what was going on. This curse of finding out bad news in the most informal way is weighing. People take for granted just what they write and how they write it. These are family members I've known for 28 years. Why do I want to find out on a generic message board that something terrible has happened? I don't. I really, really don't.

"With great power comes great responsibility"

Facebook isn't a nuclear weapon. Twitter will not be curing cancer and blogs, as much as they may try, will not be knocking down buildings. However, people flock to these messaging mediums to "express" their innermost feelings or private thoughts with little regard to the other people it effects. What is it in our psych that makes us tell everyone we know at once very intense information? What happened to the phone call? or at least an individual email or letter? Spiderman's uncle was right - the information that we know, especially private or family sensitive, is a responsibility. Gone are the days of letting those closest know first. Now it's the simplicity of sending out information or the need for a response that pushes us, or in my case, others, to announce everything.

In some ways, posting this is no different from what my cousin and brother did. I'm announcing my grief and frustration to strangers and acquaintances because of my disdain for the instant message. My only difference is my grandmother has passed and information on my uncle's condition has been relayed to his siblings BEFORE this blog will ever post. How it ought to be. How we should be taught to use computer mediated communication...

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