EXPRESSIONS OF GRIEF
ON FACEBOOK:
NAVIGATING DISCOMFORT, PERSISTENT IDENTITY,
AND PUBLIC MEMORIALIZATION
Molly Kalan
@moll...
“GHOSTS INTHE MACHINE”
• Questions of social identity
& mortality
• Persistence of digital bits in
“permanent” archive
THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
•Thanatechnology
(Sofka, 1997; Sofka et al., 2012; Jones 2004)
•Online communities & SNS as networke...
RESEARCH QUESTIONS
RQ 1: How do Facebook users experience
interaction with a deceased user’s profile?
RQ 2: How do young ad...
METHODS
•Phenomenology
•20 in-depth interviews
•Young adults / students
•Emergent theme analysis
SEEKING COMFORT, FEELING
UNCOMFORTABLE
•Technological (in)convenience
•Violation of perceived norms:“It’s just wrong.”
•Hi...
Melissa on continued interaction:
“...You kind of try to get over it, and then you get
these updates. Months later. From h...
Erin on a profile’s persistence:
“...obviously he’s not gonna post any more pictures
because he doesn’t - can’t...Those wer...
PRESERVATION OF IDENTITY
• Want to remember; fear forgetting
• Profile vs. grave
• Telling/reading stories about deceased
•...
Ben on identity:
“Everyone lives in real life,
but everyone also lives on
the internet.”
Taylor on visiting a cemetery compared
to a Facebook profile:
“...I find someone’s grave to be very, like, morbid,
and kind ...
CONCLUSIONS
• Facebook provides space for persistent
communication - this space can be disruptive to
traditional grief exp...
IMPLICATIONS
• Grief voyeurism
• Preoccupation with ourselves as
mourners
• Engage in an “endless shying
away from confron...
Expressions of Grief on Facebook: Presented at Theorizing the Web 2014 (#TtW14)
Expressions of Grief on Facebook: Presented at Theorizing the Web 2014 (#TtW14)
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Expressions of Grief on Facebook: Presented at Theorizing the Web 2014 (#TtW14)

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Exploring how Facebook users express grief on the profiles of the deceased. Based on research completed for Master's thesis at Syracuse University in October 2013, presented at Theorizing the Web in April 2014.

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Expressions of Grief on Facebook: Presented at Theorizing the Web 2014 (#TtW14)

  1. 1. EXPRESSIONS OF GRIEF ON FACEBOOK: NAVIGATING DISCOMFORT, PERSISTENT IDENTITY, AND PUBLIC MEMORIALIZATION Molly Kalan @mollykalan #TtW14
  2. 2. “GHOSTS INTHE MACHINE” • Questions of social identity & mortality • Persistence of digital bits in “permanent” archive
  3. 3. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK •Thanatechnology (Sofka, 1997; Sofka et al., 2012; Jones 2004) •Online communities & SNS as networked public (boyd & Ellison, 2008; boyd, 2011; Marwick & Ellison, 2012)
  4. 4. RESEARCH QUESTIONS RQ 1: How do Facebook users experience interaction with a deceased user’s profile? RQ 2: How do young adults experience the expression of grief on Facebook? RQ 3: How do Facebook users engage in online memorialization of a deceased user?
  5. 5. METHODS •Phenomenology •20 in-depth interviews •Young adults / students •Emergent theme analysis
  6. 6. SEEKING COMFORT, FEELING UNCOMFORTABLE •Technological (in)convenience •Violation of perceived norms:“It’s just wrong.” •Hierarchy of relational closeness •Persistence
  7. 7. Melissa on continued interaction: “...You kind of try to get over it, and then you get these updates. Months later. From his dad, just ‘I miss you’ in the Facebook group. And so that’s the continuous nature of it, [which] is I think the hardest part, because I’m still in the group and so are all of my friends.”
  8. 8. Erin on a profile’s persistence: “...obviously he’s not gonna post any more pictures because he doesn’t - can’t...Those were his last memories, and... if you go back through his pictures of, like, tagged pictures and everything [you see him] with friends over winter break, and like at homecoming that year and stuff, so that’s, like, a good way to, like, remember him.”
  9. 9. PRESERVATION OF IDENTITY • Want to remember; fear forgetting • Profile vs. grave • Telling/reading stories about deceased • Dynamic memory archive
  10. 10. Ben on identity: “Everyone lives in real life, but everyone also lives on the internet.”
  11. 11. Taylor on visiting a cemetery compared to a Facebook profile: “...I find someone’s grave to be very, like, morbid, and kind of like a religious [representation] of their death, whereas if you go on their old Facebook page you see these pictures of them laughing, them on a hike, doing all this stuff. It’s like you’re remembering the good things about them rather than, like, their physical death.”
  12. 12. CONCLUSIONS • Facebook provides space for persistent communication - this space can be disruptive to traditional grief expression. • Feel uncomfortable • Unable to set aside memories of deceased • Source of emotional conflict
  13. 13. IMPLICATIONS • Grief voyeurism • Preoccupation with ourselves as mourners • Engage in an “endless shying away from confrontation with mortality” (Metcalf & Huntington, 1991)

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