Facebook is for photos of kids with beer bottles, and for solace

It's funny, there's been a lot of psychologizing about the role of social networks. Mostly, the psychologizing is about privacy and exhibitionism. The assumption is, I suppose, that Facebook is primarily about what parties you went to and pictures of your kids and who is dating who and whatnot. And of course it is all that.

But there is a more serious side of Facebook that I never see discussed.

Recently, a close hometown friend died at a tragically young age. Many of us made the trek home for his funeral. However, the funeral did not really serve as much of a remembrance for us (i.e., his friends). It was largely in another language, full of references to God (the friend was a staunch atheist), and run by his family who are not a pleasant bunch of people.

Over the next few weeks, a memorial page was created for him. Dozens of people posted remembrances, old pictures, funny stories. For us, the real funeral was on Facebook. I've seen other, similar pages for people I know less well, so this is not an isolated phenomenon.

Also, as many of you know (would that there really were many of you), my son has a very rare and pretty devastating genetic disorder called Cri du Chat. I had never heard of it before I met him. I still have never met anyone who has it, or anyone closely related to someone who has it. It's pretty isolating - there are lots of support groups out there for kids with Down syndrome or autism, but not Cri du Chat syndrome. I've become Facebook friends with other parents of kids with Cri du Chat, and post on the 5p- Society page (5p- Syndrome is another name for Cri du Chat). It's nice. We can discuss nitty gritty stuff like feeding issues and medical problems and therapies. We can give and get advice. It's nice to compare developmental notes, and nice to know you are not going through anything alone. We can post pictures of our kids. Etc. The usual support group stuff, except it's on Facebook.

Yet I haven't read a thing about either of these uses, and they seem pretty impactful and potentially very beneficial.

1 comment:

  1. You should read the academic literature in IS. Check out the HICSS conference or ICIS; the papers are available online.

    Social networks get a lot of play in disaster response literature as well, for obvious reasons.