When Valdosta State University student Jasmine Benjamin was found killed in a study room on her campus recently, her parents learned of the news via a Facebook post. They are criticizing the school for not notifying them earlier and in a more professional manner, according to a Huffington Post article Monday.
Think about receiving news of a child’s death over Facebook — with no voice, no human touch. Granted, the speed of modern communication is nothing new. Smartphones have made it so people are constantly wired in to their online social network. Thus it’s only half surprising that a Facebook post beat Benjamin’s university in relaying the news to her family.
Still, it doesn’t quite feel acceptable. Facebook is hardly human. We have extended friend groups, a massive online network, and more friends than we actually know. So on the one hand, with events that call for courtesy, discretion and a concerned human voice — for example, the death of a daughter — an electronic update is not going to cut it. Grief will only be worsened by a lack of personal touch and careful consideration.
On the other hand, a Facebook approach to death is not entirely bad. The site can serve as a sort of virtual memorial service. It has proved itself an effective venue for mourners to convey their distress over the loss of a loved one. When a faraway friend passes away, for example, it is the least we can do to post a note of sorrow and love on said friend’s still-living wall. It allows one to be present — albeit in a minimal way — during the grieving period.
But personal tragedies should be treated with care. And a Facebook post will never replace a sympathy card. Similarly, news of a family member’s death should, at the very least, arrive over a cell phone.