Yesterday I woke up, grabbed my Blackberry and logged on to Facebook. Amidst all the videos of someoneâ€™s cat playing with a balloon, notifications that someone lost a cow in Farmville, and those who feel they must post what they ate last night, I saw a post from my cousin talking about his cousin that died that morning.
It was 10:00 a.m. and I had no idea which cousin this was. I called my sister who had just been informed that it was our cousin Johnny. I was immediately furious that this was posted on Facebook when our whole family hadnâ€™t even been informed yet.
I called my cousin and asked him gently if he would consider taking the post down so that everyone could find out first by phone. He curtly replied that he appreciated my concern, but that â€œNoâ€ he would not, then he hung up on me.
Wow. I kept thinking how inappropriate it was, how indelicate, what poor form-you name it. I then began to contact my siblings to let them know about the death so that they would not find out on Facebook.
Within minutes I heard another message come twinkling into my Blackberry, a Facebook message from my cousin, who I felt had some explaining to do.
He admitted that it was probably too soon to post it, and in fact he removed the post until later in the day. He said that the news of the death touched off his own grief about his dad, who died last summer, and the sorrow he feels about one of his brothers who is undergoing cancer treatment. I felt my heart melt, it made sense.
He said he posted this on Facebook in order to ask for prayer, but what I think he really sought was comfort.
Is Facebook the new Wailing Wall for a new tech savvy generation? The idea that he was looking for solace made me more understanding of why he did it, and then I realized that many of the posts on Facebook are from people searching for comfort and prayer.
In any given week I see posts from friends who post about someone who was just diagnosed with cancer, or whose baby was born prematurely, or someone who has lost his job. Like scrawled utterances on tiny scraps of paper slipped into the crevice of a holy wall, these daily posts plead with us to take note, to grant their requests for prayer in the hopes that the collective energy of all who read it will turn the tide of their suffering.
No one wants advice, they want comfort and they seek it in the Social Network.
While I wish that we werenâ€™t all so separated, sitting alone in our houses scanning our Blackberries for scraps of news and entertainment, I will concede that social networking is indeed a way to seek a community of sorts who we feel will support our sufferings. It provides a sense of connectedness that is immediate.
Now, maybe with time we will actually use this technology to ask for concrete help, not just prayer from afar. Until then, perhaps a friend could post a â€œFlash Mobâ€ event such as: â€œMeetup today at 4 pm, Peteâ€™s house. Bring some good food, or a bottle of wine, your favorite music and be prepared to provide comfort and support!â€