10/21/13

Like . . .

Well - it has happened again - the world of social media has let me down. I know, I know. Pick your chins up off the floor, stop rolling your eyes, move my soap box to the middle of the room and buckle up kids - it is Sean's School of Social Interaction time and I've got a TED-ish talk to spew.

Picture it. Sicily, 1922. I kid. This was Wichita, 2013. Here's the scenario. A friend (Yes, I know her in real life. I've had lunch with her several times. I consider her to be a truly wonderful human, wife, mother, etc.) lost a pregnancy a few weeks back (months by now?) and then - in the spirit of the Morton Salt Girl being always right - her father died last week. Now these are two things that are truly tragic and these are things that you sort of have to go through to get (I've lost a pregnancy - my father is still doing his "thang" in Upstate) and these are things I would never wish on anyone. Literally. NO ONE should go through either of these things. And yet we do. We do . . .

ONCE upon a time (2005 or before) this is what would happen . . . (crinkle noises as newspaper is shuffled over breakfast table) "Oh crap," says the head of household. "Seems our friend has lost their parent." "That is bad news," says co-head of household. "We might go visit the survivors, perhaps take some comfort food - no one has yet decided they have a bullshit wheat allergy so everyone will eat up and feel better about their lot for a few hours." First co-head of household responds: "Right good idea, partner. Right good. Says here the calling hours are in the coming days. I'll call the funeral home, listed here, and see who in the family might be the best person to call about bringing some food by and I'll order flowers. Children, eat your oatmeal. The bus is coming soon."

What do we do NOW?! FACEBOOK! I mean why not?! I GET (and accept) that it is a free and immediate communications tool to immediately notify every one you've ever friggin' known that you've had a death in the family (or what you ate for friggin' lunch). I get that. The SHARING of the news on Facebook is not what has me in a lather. No, no. It is the RESPONSE!

Within 20 hours of this woman sharing news of her loss (granted she DID wrap up the status with something about hugging the people you love so I'll allow that people only half read crap and there are two conflicting messages in the status) THIRTY NINE people had "liked" the death of a woman's father.

NOW - I get that people will say that they "LIKED" the status because she wrapped up her status with something positive but . . . it's like a court case I remember hearing about in college 11(I tried to Google it but can't find anything here). Here is the gist - a young woman was raped by three men on a college campus and they were able to break the case because one of them had a very specific watch on and she remembered the watch. The news anchor came back from the package and talked about how "lucky" the woman was to recognize a great watch when she saw it.

Okay, fine. It is NOTHING like that. But here's what it is like - another nail in the coffin of sincerity. What ever do I mean? How friggin' EASY is it to click "like" on a status and feel like you've done your part to support and console? And how friggin' TACKY is that?! And you people who copy/pasted bible verses or went to her wall to write something not in the thread or those who said something half-assed like "So sorry. I hope you're not a Celiac-person because someone will bring you something to eat real soon." . . . you're no better.

PICK UP THE PHONE. Buy and send a card. Get in your car - once you've touched base with the family and have approval to do so - and visit. Take something starchy and comfort foody. Stay just long enough to ensure there are no immediate needs in the house and turn Ghost like Swayze shortly after (they don't really want you just hanging out). Do something that requires some actual time, effort, attention, and sincerity. Make it meaningful.

Last fall a friend of mine went through something horrible in losing her husband. It was the first time I've really gone through something exactly like that. I was at the house within minutes and I didn't really leave for about 48 hours. I stayed long enough to help restore order to the house, to allow family to arrive to truly share in the grief, and to make sure that everyone had what they needed. I was back at that house several times a day for several days and, eventually, I would just call or text to see what was needed. Once it was apparent nothing was needed - I just let my friend and her daughter be. And they reached out if they wanted or needed anything. I got HIGH PRAISE from people for all my effort and blah, blah, blah. I did some MINIMAL stuff for those women. They lost something so important and vital and all I did was organized food drop offs and airport runs.  I got genuinely salty when people would say I did something even worth mentioning. I did exactly what I'd seen my parents do and my grandparents do. I did what was right to do - helped out in a genuine way.

I don't want to judge people for how they react to death. It is tricky and subjective and never something that a rule book truly helps with. But I'll judge us, COLLECTIVELY, for losing touch with sincerity. For becoming lazy in our relationships. For letting the click of a mouse be the sum and total of how we help someone in crisis. I don't think I'm a jerk for that. I don't think I'm a curmudgeon for wondering if my daughter will live in a world where the ONLY way you get any support or validation is through technology.

And I wonder how difficult that will be on her - especially when I'm no longer able to help console her because - after all - I'll be dead. Like my friend's father is today.