Kasie Whitener: Can People in Heaven Read Facebook?

The Writerly Life welcomes Kasie Whitener, whose post delves into the impact of social media on our most personal—and sometimes most painful—moments. Kasie blogs at Life on Clemson Road, but she also teaches and is at work on several fiction projects. Learn more about her at the end of this post.

Can People in Heaven Read Facebook?

My Facebook newsfeed:

I ❤ POTUS! Leigh Johnson Reed changed her profile picture (and my cousin’s beautiful mug). Day 141 for my friend on assignment in Liberia: a picture of her dinner. A picture of Sarah Palin with a snide comment about John McCain picking her over Mitt Romney for vice president. And a ton of “TGIF!!!”

Then, “RIP, Kellye.”

And, “You’ll be missed, Kellye.”

We’ve become a culture that does everything publicly.

Our politics are online: we comment on blogs, share fair-and-balanced articles. Our humor is online: we re-post pithy phrases laid over 1950’s cartoons (“Not all women are moody. It’s just that some of us have had enough of your bullsh**”). We share YouTube videos, clips of Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert.

Our business is online: we fan our employer, Like achievements and re-tweet specials and events to our customers. We’re LinkedIn to everyone we’ve ever met while wearing business casual dress and pretending to care.

We shop online, too: eagerly consuming hand-painted wineglasses, children’s clothing and anything and everything that’s been monogrammed (though that may just be a Southern thing).

Our families are online it’s the only way we’ve ever seen our cousin’s cute new baby. Our faith is online: we Like Bible passages and resurrection images and baptism photos.

So it is a natural progression, right? that we would mourn online? That our tribes, our communities, our families, our “friends” would experience with us the tragedy that has befallen us. After all, we went through theirs.

“I’m so sorry!”

“You’re in my prayers!”

“We love you all so much!”

Someone’s dog was euthanized. Someone’s cat went missing. Someone’s car was broken into, home burglarized, sister divorced, kid diagnosed with a terrible disease, father fighting prostate cancer, great-grandmother passed. People suffer and we suffer with them.

“Praying for you!”

Social Media Network
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

At the same time this Facebook sharing is both disturbing and confirming. First, it disturbs me that these tragedies find their way into the same medium where we’ve posted Little League Baseball scores, kitten videos, and quotes from the Dalai Lama. How is “rest in peace” appropriate here when just yesterday I wrote, “Go Tigers!” in the same space?

Jewel Blitz wants to share my top score. Amazon wants to tell people I bought a new book. Target lets everyone know I Like it and Jiffy Lube wants to tell people Brando got his oil changed. All of this news goes into my Facebook status update.

So how is, “She will be missed!” appropriate in the same place my RunKeeper App just said, “Kasie finished a 3.75 mile run in 38:22.04”?

I tweet and Facebook repeats: leadership quotes, articles about editing, Clemson sports updates, book reviews and blog posts. I wouldn’t think to Tweet, “Kellye died.” So why would I put it on Facebook?

Are these wall posts meant to offer comfort? Her sister, Kerri, is reading messages from hundreds of people who knew Kellye, people Kerri may have never met. She’s reading how loved her twin was, how many lives she touched. Do those messages on Kellye’s page help Kerri heal? Shouldn’t they? Isn’t that why they are posted?

Or are they another example of our own over-inflated sense of self-importance? Those people who ignore the fact that yesterday this same status update said “I Hate Mondays” and use it today to share their sadness are stuck in their own moment. Facebook is nothing if not self-worship.

Still the sharing is somewhat comforting and I hope wherever Kellye’s faith took her she has access to Facebook. But really, I wish she knew while she was here what a tremendous impact she was having on all of us. I am inspired to tell the people I know how important they are and what good work they are doing.

The power of social media is in the sharing of this tumultuous experience called life. And part of that experience, tragically, is that one beautiful, wonderful, funny, determined girl is no longer with us. And we’re suffering. Together.

I don’t know that blogging about her is any better than Facebooking it, so there’s my disclaimer. What do you think? Are people abusing social media by broadcasting their pain? Or is it the necessary evolution of this new global world?

Kasie Whitener

Kasie Whitener is a freelance writer and professor of English at Strayer University and Midlands Technical College. She’s a member of the National Association of Independent Writers and Editors (NAIWE), the #amwriting.org community, and the Wordsmith Studio. She tweets @KasieWhitener and Facebooks. She blogs at Life on Clemson Road and is currently writing a collection of short stories to submit to literary journals during their acceptance window in the fall. She has several novel projects all of which deal with the moment the late David Foster Wallace described as when a fish recognizes what water is.

Monday Discovery: Mind the Gap

Today’s Monday Discovery: A new series of writing challenges at WordPress called Mind the Gap. WordPress will choose a topic each week that’s trending in the news and issue a challenge to us bloggers to express our opinions on the issue. The focus of these “Mind the Gap” posts is to get us thinking and writing.

Here’s this week’s Mind the Gap question: Has social media changed how you view the Olympics? You can go over and take the poll and express your opinion there.

Here’s Mine

The title of the challenge, “Mind the Gap,” seems particularly apt for today’s chosen topic. I was not as concerned about social media and the Olympics as I was about the obscene amount of money spent to “put on” the games. All through the opening and closing ceremonies, especially, I couldn’t stop thinking, “My God, how much does this cost?”

I know how important it is for the host country to shine, and Great Britain did that. The games–which are, after all, the focus of the event (or should be)–went almost flawlessly which, considering all that could have gone wrong, is nothing short of miraculous these days. The athletes were astounding in their prowess and in their successful and heartbreaking moments.

Soup Kitchen
Photo credit: iStockphoto.com/Gary Alvis

The Least of These 

Here’s the gap that bothers me, though. According to our local paper this morning, the price tag for this Olympics was $14 billion! I keep thinking about how many empty mouths and scrawny bodies all those billions could feed and clothe. Could the world have done with a little less show and a little more charity?

How about, for every gold medal, a charitable contribution of $25,000 goes to a humanitarian effort in the winner’s home country (that’s what the gold medal winners get–taxable, by the way)? I don’t begrudge the winners their prizes. I just wish for a little more awareness and compassion and in our complicated world.

Think about it . . . Maybe you know of a charitable effort as an outgrowth of the Olympics. If so, educate me. And let me know your opinions here! 

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

A Little Housekeeping

It’s time for some updating and housekeeping chores at The Writerly Life.

Screenshot # 2

The home page has a slightly different look today: I moved some things around, got rid of the Tag Cloud (which seems to duplicate Categories, but maybe I’ll just start afresh), added a quick-access profile via Gravatar, and most importantly, a new widget called Community that shows all of you likers, followers, and commenters. It’s colorful and cheery and reminds me of why I’m here. It’s not a host of hundreds yet–but it’s growing!

Overall, I hope the effect is cleaner and more efficient. You can let me know what you think.

This little makeover calls for a big shout-out to all of you who have read these words and maybe even honored this effort by making The Writerly Life a regular stop on your blog rounds. That takes time and effort. Thank you, thank you!

Milestones

Some milestones reached this week—over 5,000 views and 65 posts, including an interview and some fine guest writers (all almost entirely since April 2012)—call for a hard look at the blog, where it is, and where it’s going.

I am not a prolific writer here. Some of you put me to shame, posting every day! I will continue to write regularly, bringing you something original (I hope!) once a week and also sharing other sites that strike me as interesting and informative (like this one), words of wisdom regarding writing and the writer’s life, and photographs, including a regular series of photos as writing prompts. Look for a special guest post next week and another writing prompt coming soon (it’s a provocative photo; I think you’ll like it)! Occasionally, I’ll dare to drop in bits of original fiction or poetry.

And who knows what else, because this writer’s house is a work in progress.

“Y’all Come Back Now . . .”

I hope I’ll continue to offer you words and images that are worth your time. So, as one of my elderly aunts used to say every time my family left her house on a Sunday afternoon, “Y’all come back now, ya hear?”

 If you’re new here, follow the links in this post for a taste of what The Writerly Life is like. I’m always glad to see you here and read what you have to say.