Death’s Social Media Reach


I’ve started, then stopped writing this post at least four times now. I’m stumbling on my words today to try and convey what mortality means. What losing someone feels like, and how this digital world makes you face mortality in a way that’s new to our culture. You know, openly?

Isn’t it crazy how a loss – no matter how distant – makes you acknowledge your place in the world? You suddenly feel more gratitude. You start to admire things you never noticed. All because of some Facebook posts or tweets. Social media has brought death closer to life,  as people change their profile pictures, post new photos and statuses that are a constant reminder of the deep and vast mark the lost have made on our lives.

 

I hate to kick off a post by talking about death because let’s face it, that is not a popular or particularly happy topic.

But social media has done a powerful thing here. It has delivered news in a way that feels personal, even when it might not be. We’re starting to talk about death more as we acknowledge mortality. We question our own. That questioning, today especially for me, can be a prompt for gratitude, acceptance, appreciation and awareness too.

Mortality encompasses the moments where life is given and goes away, or at least it does in my head. There’s joy in mortality – even if the word implies something negative. I’m getting to the age where my friends are having kids and seeing them grow gives me the ultimate pride. The idea that we, my circle of trust, have started to put more amazing people into this world makes me happy. That we’ve made our mark in a way that will have impact long after we’ve met our own end.

Death has a similarly broad impact on me, today especially because of the digital influence. Close to me or not during life, seeing the impact of that person’s life on their circle is really moving.

Tonka was a beautiful soul – one of those people with a smile that sticks. I always noticed him because he stood out as a true optimist. I saw him as someone who appreciated and lived his values. A truly good human being; something really rare.

The way he shared his fight with cancer on social media was also rare – with a peak into the reality, not just the motivational messages people try to pass for gratitude when we know deep down they’re a mask for the tragic, heart-wrenching cycle that a fight with cancer always is.  A week ago, he acknowledged “outloud” (on Facebook) that he knew it was almost over.

A message that few are given the opportunity to deliver, I can’t imagine what that feels like or what it would mean to have that conversation digitally. I don’t know that I would ever be satisfied with how I crafted that message, politely enough to save details but honest enough to let them know I was really going to die. Then, to watch an outpouring of love as you fade from life – seeing the tributes instead of having it all come out as a memorial.

The outpouring that followed is a real tribute to his value-based life, more than I could ever capture in a single blog post.

Tonka was a good man and this idea, this gratitude I feel today is in honor of the life he lived. The perspective he has given. And all of the people he has fundamentally changed for the better. I hope you can take a moment today to fully live the life you choose, just like he did.

And to smile.

Even if you’re making a weird face. Do you.

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