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I Said Your Name in an Empty Room: Grieving and Continuing Bonds on Facebook

Using linguistics research of profiles of deceased loved ones to improve the interaction those left behind have in the digital space.

Photo of Emily Getty
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In response to the death of a close friend or relative, bereaved individuals can use technology as part of the grieving process. We present a study that analyzes the messages of the friends and family of the deceased to their Facebook profile before and after their passing. Our analysis reveals that mourners use profiles as a way to maintain a continuing bond with the deceased, as well as a way to accomplish specific front stage bereavement communication, such as sharing memories, expressing sorrow and providing social support. These observations may improve the design of social networking technologies so that they remain useful, sensitive tools for the bereaved.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

The use of technology in the grieving process across multiple platforms and shrinking time and space. End-of-Life experiences are going to evolve as quickly as technology, shaping the sensitivity that different platforms have in their design will be important. After our research was published we noticed significant changes in the way Facebook designed and dealt with deceased members' profiles.

If you participated in an End of Life Storytelling Event, tell us which Chapter or city you came from:




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Photo of Shane Zhao

Thanks for the insightful share Emily! You've made a great provocation that end-of-life experiences are going to evolve as quickly as technology. New tools and modes of communication are already redefining traditional end-of-life rituals. Here's also a great like-minded post you'll be interested in checking out: "If I die" Facebook app for last messages to loved-ones - great or creepy?