What’s On Your Mind?

For most of his life, my father had a large, cheerful presence. With a booming voice and a distinct whistle that could be heard through a crowd, he did not go unnoticed. He was an artist and a teacher and his large presence in real life reflected his presence on the internet. He was a pioneer in using technology in education by being the first educator to use podcasting in his fourth-grade classroom, and he later became recognized for photography using his iPhone. My dad used Facebook to post photos and drawings each day. When he became sick, they reflected his emotions and he would take photographs and create sketches to convey his pain. As his  presence  deteriorated in real life, so did his presence online. His photographs got darker and dismal, and so did he. Screen Shot 2017-04-27 at 10.49.29 PMScreen Shot 2017-04-27 at 10.49.36 PM.png

On December 8, 2015, when my dad didn’t post a photo, the internet noticed. He had a large presence and following online and after his death, all that was left was a shadow of his posts and artwork.  As an  educator, my dad knew many people through social media, and many people followed his daily photography. When he died, these people grieved and voiced their emotions. Unlike those people, I didn’t see my dad through a screen, I saw him behind his big round glasses, sitting in his chair drawing. I saw him as the man who told me stories and kissed my forehead, not as his profile picture. Grief is overwhelming and unbearable. It is a wave that swallows you in its undertow and just as you think you are reaching the surface, engulfs you again in a perpetual rotation. While I grieved the loss of my father, so did hundreds of people online. But we grieved in different ways. I needed time and air, while the water filled my lungs. It seemed the other people were swimming while I could b arely float. Social media has turned grieving into a public process and does not allow people to grieve privately and on their own time.  The undertow was pulling me into the sand, and at the time, I needed to sink a bit, before I could process the new reality of my life.

In an age where every emotion is documented and Facebook pesters you to answer the question, “What’s on your mind?” grief is coped with publicly.  Before social media, grief was dealt with in a solitary way, and now the vulnerable, private process has become digitized.  According to an article in the Huffington Post written by Lexi Herrick, “people use social media for three primary grieving purposes. The first is to build a bridge of perpetual existence through a deceased loved one’s social pages. The second is to participate in mass grieving that exists very strongly through the Internet. And the third reason is for the condolence, support, acknowledgment, and sense of belonging from the living that engage in their displays of grief.” Because we have become immune to the changes in our personal lives affected by social media, it can be unclear how dramatically it has changed the way we deal with death.

A major aspect of grieving done on social media is continuing to have a relationship with the deceased through the screen. After their physical body is gone, those grieving speak to the dead by writing on their Facebook wall. According to a study done in an experiment of Facebook memorial pages, it was discovered most individuals write as if the dead are reading their words in the afterlife. In an experiment performed by Rebecca Kern, Abbe E. Forman, and Gisela Gil-Egui in 2013 it was found the “majority of pages returned showed that people posting to the RIP pages are writing in the second person. Pages written in the second person outnumber first and third person pages by a margin of nearly 2:1”  It was also found most of the pages where people spoke to the dead directly were people who had died early in life in a tragic way. (Kern, Forman & Gil-Egui, 2013) By writing in the second person, people tried to rationalize a tragic death by asking questions and feeling connected, almost fantasizing as if the person is still alive. Social media  provides a narrative, instead of eliminating the possibility of ever speaking to a lost loved one again. It gives us a breath of air  after being swept in  the undertow when we see a photograph or an anecdote of our loved ones from the past. It gives a false sense of hope and also provides comfort in a way similar to religion or discussing the afterlife with a medium. It creates a community for those experiencing grief, giving them an outlet to comment words of  love and support to each other. It also gives a platform to share personal stories and remember those lost.  The challenging element is the inability to convey empathy. When discussing the new addition of the dislike button on Facebook Mark Zuckerberg expressed, “What they really want is the ability to express empathy. Not every moment is a good moment.” (Coen, 2015) Liking a status announcing the death of someone can seem inappropriate. And becuase there is no “empathy” button, we must learn the new social elements of respecting those grieving while on social media.Screen Shot 2017-04-27 at 10.49.48 PM.png

Because of social media’s invading grasp, people cannot grieve in solitude. It is a window into other people’s lives and the glass is fogged, causing the scene to appear altered and obscured to the observer.  A day after my father died I logged onto facebook and saw someone had already posted about his death with his name highlighted in blue. I was still in a state of shock and hadn’t even begun to process his passsing so when I saw a post from one of his old friends I became practically hysterical. I wasn’t ready for it to be real yet, and this woman I hardly knew had interfered with my own personal grieving process. I remember scanning my mouse over his name, and his profile still appeared, with a sketch he had drawn of himself floating above her requiem.  This made it seem he was just offline and not actually dead. Within forty-eight hours of his passing, word had circulated on the internet of his death and instead of me and my mom quietly grieving in our home, it became public knowledge before we were ready to discuss it. Before funeral arrangements had been made, his obituary appeared in the newspaper, or flowers had been sent people were already posting their condolences online. In an article titled One-Click Condolences, Amy Webb elaborates, “one-click condolences don’t help people deal with loss. In fact, it accelerates a social norm that would otherwise take several weeks.” (Webb, 2014) Although I was receiving so many messages and prayers, I did not feel connected to any of them. It actually made me angry when people would tag my dad in a post because even seeing his photo made me extremely emotional. Solitude is an important part of grieving. Stefan Klein, a German scientist who studied the neuroscience of sadness wrote in his book The Science of Happiness, “German culture, especially,” he says, “has been fatally imbued with the idea that  solitude is a particularly desirable and noble condition….” that solitude brings people closer to their innermost selves” (Stepp, 2017) I had an excessive amount of elements of my father’s death to process and I wanted to do so alone. My phone kept vibrating, interrupting my thoughts, and I kept ignoring the notifications. It distracted me in an unhealthy way and prevented me from having, “those private, intimate moments of grieving” which were “supplanted now by public pings, interrupting our grieving process in the worst possible way.” (Webb, 2014) I felt guilty not responding to people, but I also was not in the state of mind to make the death of my dad public. Screen Shot 2017-04-27 at 10.49.59 PM.png

My grieving process was made more complicated because of social media and how quickly information is shared online. After the overwhelming floods of comments and statuses, there was a lull in the conversation about my dad’s death. In just a couple weeks after my dad’s death, it seemed everyone had forgotten about him. Grieving is not something that can simply be completed after writing a status or posting a picture. It is a process that does not have a time limit. When people stopped posting I felt like they stopped caring, and I felt like I had to put my grieving to rest and move on before I was ready. My dad’s death seemed like another trend online, and like all trends, people lost interest in him. While grieving is different for everyone, it is common for the process to last for six to eighteen months (King, 2017). In my senior year of high school I felt the pressure to maintain my presence online, and to my followers, it appeared I was doing fine. I would Instagram the good moments of my life, and the moments where the undertow was swallowing me were not posted. Because I posted as if I had moved on, as if my grieving process was completed, people treated me as if it was. This caused my emotions to be stunted and I felt like my presence online was completely different from the complicated situation I was living.

Facebook made my personal process of grieving more complicated because people were writing about my dad in the present tense. Just as the study by Rebecca Kern, Abbe E. Forman and Gisela Gil-Egui in 2013 said, people spoke to him in the second tense. Because his death was a tragic event, the community and his family members used his Facebook page to make sense of the whole situation. For me, I felt this was strange and because he was my dad, I did not feel connected to him by typing on his wall.

It was challenging for me to accept my dad’s death because his profile would also still come up in the chat bar, the little green dot next to his name offered a false sense of hope like I was Gatsby watching the green light across the water. It was like he was still alive, and this made it challenging for me to accept that he wasn’t. I would read his old statuses and look at his photography and feel like he could post something any minute. I was in an alternate reality that was caused by a screen. Most of the posts about my dad did not ease my pain, I simply clicked through a sea of “Sorry for your loss.” It felt like there was a separation, it felt mechanical and insincere. People were trying to profess their empathy but I couldn’t feel it through the disconnect of their computer and mine.

Although social media makes death much more public and invasive than it used to be, it also provides a platform for people to remember the accomplishments and impact a person made during their lifetime. A couple months ago I googled my dad’s name, and I found a website called bobtaughtme.com. It was created by his coworkers and fellow educators. On the main page of the site, it listed the goals of the page: “ To archive and preserve Bob’s digital legacy and amplify the way Bob has taught and continues to teach learners around the United States and the world.” The website consisted of links to his websites and reflections from his past students and colleagues. Although this  was an extremely public way of remembering my dad, it gave me comfort that he was not being forgotten and his impact would  continue to be recognized. His photos would remain online, the podcasts would continue to be listened to and a presence he worked so hard during his lifetime to create would remain. I memorialized his page on Facebook, where his drawings and photography can continue to breathe. Social media has many negative effects on the grieving process and I believe boundaries need to be respected when posting about a passing of someone. But with this new kind of public scrapbook, I also believe social media can be a positive component in remembering the life of those lost.

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Works Cited

Coen, Susie. “Has Social Media Changed the Way We Grieve?” The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, 18 Sept. 2015. Web. 12 Mar. 2017.

Herrick, Lexi. “The Reasons We Grieve on Social Media.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 16 July 2014. Web. 12 Mar. 2017.

Kern, Rebecca, Abbe E. Forman, and Gisela Gil-Egui. “R.I.P.: Remain in Perpetuity. Facebook Memorial Pages.” R.I.P.: Remain in Perpetuity. Facebook Memorial Pages. Elsevier, Feb. 2013. Web. 12 Mar. 2017.

King, Mary. “Breaking the Silence: Social Media’s Impact on the Way We Grieve.” South Carolina’s News, Weather and Sports Leader – Wistv.com – Columbia, South Carolina. N.p., 1 Feb. 2017. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.

Stepp, Gina. “Give Sorrow More Than Words .” Life and Health: Give Sorrow More Than Words: The Neuroscience of Grief. N.p., 13 Dec. 2017. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.

Webb, Amy. “How Social Media Makes the Grieving Process More Difficult.” Slate Magazine. N.p., 13 Aug. 2014. Web. 13 Feb. 2017.

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The World Keeps Moving

You cannot stop the world from moving. You cannot halt the chaotic tasks and rhythms and routines. Those will keep on going, and they will continue to keep on going without any concern. when you try to stop your world because you can’t keep up with it, it won’t stop for you. It may disguise minutes into feeling like hours but only in the form of a mirage in a desert and there is no water. The night will come. The day will end. The next day will start. A year ago I didn’t want December 8th to end because when it ended it was in the past, it was gone and I couldn’t go back. On December 8th my dad was alive and then he was not. Even though December 8th strangled me and suffocated me and destroyed me, it was just a day. Because I could hold onto that one day because on that one day he was on this planet, for part of that day, and December 9th he would not be. But you cannot stop the world from moving. It may be teetering, crumbling and exploding but the sun will go down. The sun will come up and December will end, and snow will melt and flowers will start growing again, and air will get hot, and leaves will die and then the snow will come again in December. Because the world keeps moving. I’ve always been fascinated with the concept of other dimensions. Other realities that exist if one thing had happened instead of another. Sometimes I think I’m in the wrong one. It has been a year and I haven’t deleted his contact and I haven’t touched his books and when I don’t wear a coat when I know I should I expect him to lecture me. It has been a year and I have made bad decisions, and I have laughed, and I have eaten good meals and gone to the beach and gotten longer hair. It has been a year and I’ve written things I wanted him to read, and listened to music I wanted him to hear, and watched movies I wanted him to watch and , seen elections I wanted him to mock, and been shows I wanted him to see and posed for prom pictures I wanted him to take. I have had some of the best moments of my life since he’s been gone. And I don’t want that to stop. He wouldn’t have wanted the world to stop moving. I will go through many Decembers. I will graduate from college, and make more bad decisions, and get married and laugh, and eat good meals and go to the beach. I will write more and read more, and listen to more music and watch more movies. I will do all these things. I am going to do all of these things. But even as I do all these things there will always be questions I never asked, stories I never heard, aisles I will never be walked down, fights I never had, walks I never took. You cannot stop the world from moving but you can remember a time when it moved and he was in it. He went through many Decembers. He was in this moving world. And I don’t care how many Decembers go by, I will not let the world move fast enough to forget that.

When things go wrong

Sometimes it feels like everything is against you. Today was one of those days. My dad was always very adamant about getting to the airport/bus station about 50 years before we were actually boarded. Me being my spontaneous DUMB self, has always disregarded this smart lesson. I bought a ticket on my phone for a Greyhound bus home at 6:00 pm. Because I bought it on my phone I would have to pick up the physical ticket at a kiosk. Here’s where things start going wrong. I already have been feeling extremely ill which adds to the fun unconscious vibes of this tale! Abby, her friend Jack and I took a train from white plains into grand central station. The train arrived at grand central at 5:00 pm. I was supposed to be at the station no later than an hour before the bus boarded to print my ticket. This is where the panic began. I was holding my two bags, both containing the weight of the Grand Canyon inside so that made walking extremely easy (does my sarcasm translate or no). Abby was keeping my very calm and so was Jack and I cannot thank them enough for putting up with my voice cracking, on the verge of pity whimpering nonsense. I tried to get an uber and he was at the wrong location to pick us up and when we finally ran to get to him. Wait for it. He drove away. So my panic level has now reached Titanic passenger after seeing all the rays run from the water pouring into the third class corridors. Abby calls a lyft which is basically uber and as we look for this car and finally find it. It. Drives. Away. I am now a toddler and am losing my fucking mind. We decide to walk at this point. It is not 5:50. The bus boards in 10 minutes but I don’t even have a physical ticket yet. I am convulsing. I am sending terrible vibes out into the universe and basically thinking I will have to take another bus. As we’re running (jack has kindly taken my extremely girly duffle bag) I decide to look up later bus times. The only available time to Boston arrives in the city at 2:30 am. Mind you I’m sick and I have to work an 8 hour shift tomorrow. I’m moaning quietly at this point. I am extremely annoyed by myself. We reach port authority and run to the terminal. Of all the ways this situation could have turned out…magically the bus is late. Jack runs with me to print my ticket. The bus ended up being almost two hours late and I couldn’t have been happier about it. I’m now listening to musical theatre music and Peter Gabriel’s “So” on the way home. Boston home.

Sometimes everything goes wrong. And you have to incredibly kind people to get you though it. And put up with your childish reactions and hold your flowery duffle bag and wait for the bus that was two hours behind schedule. And it doesn’t feel like the end of the world anymore.

Since 4:00 am

I am currently sitting in a rehearsal room watching my friend’s acapella group. Their name is choral pleasure also. They are fucking amazing and it’s not a bad way to spend a Wednesday night. I took a six hour bus from Boston to White Plains and BOY what a bus ride it was. The morning began at 4:00 am. I’m going to repeat that. 4:00 am. At the station I was confused about where the gate was and luckily found it without looking too much like a noob. While waiting in line an older man fell difectly backwards which was pretty terrifying, the bus driver yelled at two boys two minutes into the trip and at Mohegan sun (which by the way is a TERRIFYING looking place and it most definitely is not real and oxygen is pumped in) he got into a fight with someone off the bus. DRAMMAAA. I’ve had a pretty raw sore throats today but nothing that emergen C and DayQuil can’t help (also two grande iced chai lattes and sushi). I got to sit in on a seminar class and listen to some extremely talented folks (one of which made a song get stuck in my head). Hopefully I feel less like I’m swallowing fingernails tomorrow because tomorrow I’m seeing Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp in the big apple. Life is good good good.

SKIN

I have always had fairly good skin (buckle your seatbelts ladies and gents for the most controversial, taboo post I’ve made yet!!) but recently, due to the grime of the city or maybe just my own personal grime, it has straight up sucked. Sucked. It has this gray tint that resembles Dobby from Harry Potter, and I always ALWAYS have a blemish somewhere. Blemish is the cute way of saying “I have a crater growing on the crevice between my lips and my chin thanks so much for asking!!” I wear makeup daily which is something I hate doing but I also would rather not look like I’m wearing stage makeup to play the ghost of Christmas past in a low-budget production of “A Christmas Carol.”

My skin routine goes as follows:

  • I wake up and cleanse my skin with this mario bedescau (spelling) stuff and then sometimes use toner.
  • I moisturize in some way or another
  • Beat my face (you can look up the Urban dictionary definition of this if you are so implied)

I am really over with this whole dull, gray, old man skin so I decided to do something about it. What is my idea of a solution?? Buying a buttload of products. Today I was on the usual bus I go on to the end of Newbury street but the bus driver decided to SKIP that stop for kicks and giggles and I ended up in Harvard Square…a little out of my way. While I was in Cambridge I decided to get an exfoliator from LUSH. I have a lot of respect for the way LUSH runs their company and give them major props for everything they do. I spoke to a sweet saleswoman and she hooked me up with a bomb ass exfoliator for the face and body called Ocean Salt. She tested it on my hand and rinsed it off in this little sink and I felt like a queen so I bought it.

I will keep you all updated on my skin. (I’m sorry about this post)

Full time full lox

When I decided I wanted to work full time I did it because I didn’t want to just be sitting around. I wanted down time to be earned, and I wanted a constant schedule. I wasn’t even really thinking about the money. The thing is. Now that I’m working forty hours a week I most definitely am thinking about the money. I have worked almost every day this week, all 8 hour shifts and all closing shifts. The thing about closing is that it is the only thing hanging over your head even at 8:30 in the morning. As you’re cutting tomatoes and spreading cream cheese, all you can think about is the abundance of tasks that lay ahead of you. This week I have Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday AND Friday off because I’m going to New York. I could not be more excited for this hiatus from coffee grounds, veggie tofu cream cheese and god damn parfaits.

I do like this whole staying busy deal. I feel productive, I feel like an adult, and I most definitely do NOT feel guilty about sleeping all day on a rainy Sunday.

Also I don’t have to set my alarm tomorrow and that’s a beautiful thing.

One liners

I’m exhausted and I work tomorrow at 8 am so here’s a couple one liners I can up with/tweet ideas.

-Look at any picture of yourself from middle school and I gaurentee your eyebrows will be raised and you will have forehead worms with sad eyes

-I wish I was like Monica or Rachel or pheobe but let’s face it I’m Janice

-I just want everyone to know that at one point in my life I loved diary of a wimpy kid and I’m not ashamed to admit it okay?

-Thinking about you makes me want to throw up a little bit? But in like the best way possible?

-What I would give to go to a middle school dance and tell people what they are gonna turn out like

that’s all. Night night.