I appreciate and enjoy my Facebook community.
I laugh and engage with my Facebook network. I am uplifted and I am even enlightened by so many of my interactions with people who I don’t really know, but with whom I have formed online relationships that embroider my life.
I also appreciate the solace, kindness, and support I have seen so many people on Facebook offer to others when circumstances cry out for it.
However, in the midst of all that, I have had another “experience” of Facebook as well.
I recently saw a Facebook post on a tragedy that left the father of a young family dead.
I cried when I saw the post. It made me ache inside. My reaction reminded me of something I’d read in a book a long time ago.
The anguished parents of a seven-year-old little girl had written in for advice on how to deal with the tragedy that had befallen their daughter.
The author advised the parents to take comfort in the fact that their daughter suffered and died only once.
As I remember it, he told the parents something like, “You however, suffer over and over again, every time you think of her death and are continually traumatized by it.”
It’s not that triggering posts on Facebook come even remotely close to the experience of the parents who I read about—not that at all—but that with the combined posts of horrors, tragedies, and deaths on Facebook, I do experience something similar.
Oftentimes, I am moved to tears.
Other times, I can’t watch the videos, or the extended narratives and photographs; they are just too painful.
Am I, as a viewer of Facebook—like the parents who wrote about their seven-year-old daughter—traumatized each time so many deaths and tragedies are depicted before me?
In real life, black men, policemen, and innocent people in a church, a night club, or at a company event die once, and their suffering is over.
In the virtual life of Facebook, the same people die over and over again, right there on my Facebook page.
Stories, memes, and pictures about their deaths are posted for days on end—that is until they are replaced with other, newer tragedies in which the content and events are different, but the process of horrifying the viewer remains the same.
What must it be like for the loved ones and families?
It makes me think that with the repetitious sharing of tragedy, violence, and shootings, not to mention the arguments about whether it’s Black Lives Matter, or it’s Trump, or the NRA, or the so-called immigrants, or even the Women’s Marches at fault, Facebook isn’t really helping us help each other.
It’s helping us hurt each other.
Do our psyches even know the difference between real time and virtual time when we see a child lying face down and lifeless in sea waters?
The Facebook of today seems to be offering people an outlet for much more than wishing strangers “Happy Birthday,” allowing families to keep in touch, and providing advertisers direct links to what we are buying.
The Facebook of today is more. Instead of mirroring only the joyful, happy, “this is where we went on vacation” side of life, it is mirroring the other tragic, desperate, needy, hungry, violent side of life as well.
I now realize that this kind of Facebook requires a more prospective involvement from me than blithely scrolling down my feed.
Author: Carmelene Siani
Editor: Caitlin Oriel