The way that people discuss the topic of death and illness online is changing.
While many people take to social media to share their good news, such as a marriage proposal or a job promotion, many also use it to express their loss and grief. For a long time, death has been a taboo in the American culture, yet this is changing. Now, more and more people are starting to take to social media to begin an open conversation about the topic.
In an article in The Atlantic, “How Social Media Is Changing The Way We Approach Death,” the author discusses how more people are openly discussing death online than ever before. While the appropriateness of this topic online has been discussed, “The consensus seems to be that as social media-savvy generations age, death will creep its way onto platforms like Facebook and Twitter more and more.”
Sometimes it is a user sharing the illness of a sick loved one, but often times it is also a user sharing their personal illness through mediums such as Tweets and Facebook statuses. Nowadays it is not infrequent to log onto Facebook and see a friends update about how their treatment is going. An explanation discussed in the article mentioned above is that these statuses help develop a network of support as well as attention. A doctor quoted in the article stated, “The whole process is really therapeutic.”
In a past blog, ‘The Draw of Anonymity,’ I mentioned a Facebook Page called ‘NYU Secrets’ which allows for people to anonymously send in their secrets and for others to comment on them. While many secrets are short and sweet, there are a handful which are more intense and deal with topics such as illnesses and death. And after reading some of these posts and their comments, it is easy to see that for the Original Poster, these posts offer real support and encouragement. In fact, these secrets are some of the most popular and most commented upon. Users often respond with comments such as “Stay strong!” or “You can get through it, just keep your head up.”
Posting updates of these sorts also allow the user to connect with people who are undergoing similar experiences. Even if the users have never met, they can still support one another and share their stories. It allows for a community in which people can openly discuss their illnesses and help one another through them. And while some may still rather keep all the details of their illness to themselves, using social media as an outlet seems to be effective for many.