Dealing With Death Through Social Media

08/04/2011 11:06 am ET | Updated Oct 04, 2011
  • Gil Laroya Award-winning Silicon Valley product designer

On a hot Friday afternoon, my family and I said goodbye to our dear Golden Retriever of 11 years, Mia. She had been diagnosed with kidney disease, and we had already prepared ourselves for the inevitable moment when we would have to let her go. When the deed was done, our collective sadness held a slightly muted thought -- do we use social media to annouce the departing of a loved one... and more importantly, is that kosher?

Many of us associate social media with typically happy positive themes; new born babies, jokes and stories, vacation photos of friends, and birthday announcements. But what about death? When does using a social network for death announcements make you a digital "party pooper"?

I thought about this over the weekend after we let our dying dog move on. I mulled over the variations of possible thoughts and reactions from using Facebook or Twitter to mention that my dog had died. I also imagined the jokes and remarks that I'd open myself up to, and realized that, in some ways, social media have grown roots as a fun, positive way to stay connected. Of course it also leaves room for obscure items such as what you ate for breakfast or what shoes you ended up buying at Macys. But overall, the impression that I have for the use of social media was based around the ideas that social networks are a lot like company beer bashes -- everyone hangs out, talks about whatever comes to mind, but generally stays politically correct and keep the topics on positive notes. The idea being that you don't want to offend or otherwise cause problems that will linger long after the beer stops flowing.

And so with everything that had gone through my head, I elected to just leave my dog's passing as word of mouth, and not toss it into the black hole that social networks can sometimes be.

Because theres nothing worse than putting the memory of a passed loved one out to the masses, only to open the door to all sorts of reactions and opinions, some of which may not be very respectful to the ones we've loved.