I was on FB on Sunday (though the same could be said for any other day too) when a status update suddenly popped up in my newsfeed.
“RIP Justine,” it read. “Far too young to go, thoughts are with your family.”
Divulging a bit further into the post in reading comments it revealed it was referring to a girl I went to school with for a year in sixth form.
About an hour or so later, many more statuses had popped up despairing over Justine’s death. I was pretty stunned – although her and I hadn’t been chums, she was a peer of my same age and she was gone. I sort of automatically assumed suivide; in the past few years about three or four people of my age have passed on, all through such means. So when the news came in Justine had actually died in a car accident I was shocked.
It got me thinking about grief, death and how different people deal. I was astounded at the number of posts going up about Justine and how the majority of them started by stating, “We haven’t talked since school, but was so saddened….”. I was quite perplexed; we left school six years ago (?!?!), seven in Justine’s case – was it just me, or was it a bit odd that people who were no longer part of her life were taking to their private FB pages to declare news of her death?
I mean, in one way I can see it could be seen as lovely in acknowledging the loss of a beautiful person, but in others, is it really their place to do so? Wouldn’t a private message to those reeling be more appropriate? Or is it seen in the way of a newspaper printed death notice? Social media, especially Facebook, has really blurred the lines between public and private, social norms and etiquette. Often things are found out about on FB before people who should know do – case in point, the death of my Nanna. My cousins were distraught to log on to find out their grandmother had passed away from their newsfeed instead of the phone call that came in four minutes later.
Yesterday both Stuff and NZ Herald had stories on Justine, which contained interviews with her mother and long-time boyfriend. Friends (in the FB sense of the word here) of mine were sharing it all over the show, which I must admit I found quite odd. I guess as her close ones had opened up to the media it was more acceptable, but what if they hadn’t? Would sharing the story of her death been instead seen as rather unsympathetic? And the people “liking” the posts? Just in the name of the function, was it really appropriate?
I talked to a friend today who was pretty pally with Justine at school. She viewed my take on the FB shares in complete polarisation to myself; “The news hit a lot of people hard,” she said. “Getting it out there was their way of dealing.” I conceded that point, but it still made me feel uncomfortable. Was it a warming gesture to Justine’s family, or was it actually rather painful?
I guess it depends on the person, both passed on and left behind. While I love the limelight and am on the more sharing side of the spectrum, I think should it have been my family in the media I wouldn’t want the stories constantly bombarding my news feed. Messages of sympathy, kindness and good memories maybe, but not the quite black and white writings of a journalist. But then I guess you could say I’m a big hypocrite for then taking to my blog to dissect it as well. I intially had a screenshot of the two stories as my accompanying photos for this little spiel; if I appear to be coming across as self righteous, I really don’t mean to be. I’m just confused and puzzled as one often is in the face of death.
I guess it’s just a big shock to all, being close to Justine regardless. We are in our early and mid 20s, we feel invincible and unstoppable, then to hear someone you actually know (well, knew) has left this world? It’s a pretty hefty blow. The story detailed how Justine and her partner had planned to marry and have a family; my heart goes out to the poor guy, his future now in utter disarray.
In some respects, I don’t even know what I’m trying to say here. I guess it’s just questioning what is respectful, appropriate and accepted in today’s computer communicationed world. I guess my way of dealing with death is no better nor worse of anyone else’s.
Peaceful rest wherever you are Justine.