Thursday, April 26, 2012

It Is Enough; Now Stay Your Hand

Marah Eakin:

As we get deeper into the Internet age, and in particular the Twitter age, it’s getting easier to become less thoughtful. One-liners fly out into the ether and then disappear forever. For some, every single thing they do is broadcast online. Mourning, on the other hand, is traditionally a deeply private practice. If a loved one or family member dies, you feel a pain that only you know. Taking to Facebook or Twitter to express that kind of hurt seems trite, almost like a slight to the deceased. If you really cared that much, would you be able to sum up your thoughts in 140 characters, or with a sad face emoticon? Does it matter what other people thought about exactly how sad you really were?

...The Internet can get a bad rap for being a wasteland of dumb content and dick shots, all of which it has in spades. What it also has, though, is potential. With its unlimited capacity and nearly unlimited number of contributors, the Internet has the ability to spin out in a variety of different directions. Sure, it can go brusque and glib, and that works sometimes. It can also spark real conversation or host excellent essay work and heartfelt rememembrances of those we’ve lost. What we have to figure out as content producers—and any one of us with a Facebook or Twitter account is a content producer—is what kind of message we want to put out into the ether. It’s not easy to do, especially when dealing with something as emotional as death and mourning, but it’s that modicum of thought that can mark the difference between a tribute and a shrug.

Well, call me an optimist, but I'd like to think it shouldn't take the paralysis of grief to prompt some reflection and carefully-crafted prose from my fellow netizens; couldn't it just be a general ideal to aim for? That quibble aside, yes, I concur, well said, huzzah!

I have to be fair, though, and mention that cheap public displays of mourning aren't exclusive to social media—in recent years, I've noticed a strange trend of memorializing dead loved ones in a rear-window decal, like there's a kit you can buy at AutoZone or something (if there is, I don't want to know about it, thanks). I wonder if these people proudly sport a t-shirt with iron-on photos and text while they're at it. Why not head over to CafePress for all your thanatosian needs and emblazon your dearly departed's face and lifespan dates on everything from coffee mugs to fridge magnets? Let's put the fun back in funeral.