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How Millennials Mourn

The generation who was raised on technology and social media takes to what they know for every life event-- even death.

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Death is a trivial thing and mourning takes different forms with different people. Some wish to be remembered by having their ashes scattered in nature. Others prefer their entire body to be buried under a headstone or in a mausoleum. If you're a pope your corpse is covered in wax and your wax figure is displayed in a glass case in Saint Peter's Basilica (go and visit it if you don't believe this is real).

Funerals are there to provide a sense of closure for the living because let's face it, the dead do not know it is going on. The funeral offers a final gathering for family and friends to collectively give condolences, share memories, and pay their respects to the deceased. It is an event dating back to the earliest of times to mourn and celebrate the life of the departed.

Social media is completely altering the way millennials mourn though. This is the generation that skipped a good portion of the MySpace mania and went straight to status updates and AIM. The first thing Facebook asks you upon logging in is "What's on your mind?" and most people take that pretty seriously posting anything from their political viewpoints to their latest thoughts on this season of Orange is the New Black. This generation has become so consumed with free speech via technology that we have had to legal action to let them know that not everything you post can be considered free speech.

One of the more recent uses for social media has become the mourning post. When a peer dies many millennials take to social media to post on that person's wall, post an individual status, comment on a photo, etcetera to pay their respects. A lot of teenagers believe it to be a nice gesture to show the family and friends of the deceased how many lives the deceased touched.

Does social media make it acceptable to reach out to those who have passed in an impersonal way? Or is it still impersonal? I think the most common thing people see with the intertwining of social media and death is the instant gratification those who mourn publicly receive. Whether it's "like" or a comment about how strong the person is, the mourner is instantaneously given a token of support for posting something.

Death in general stirs up a lot of feelings for humans-- teenagers, or those who have not experienced much death in their life, tend to feel especially unsure and rattled when the death of someone occurs. In these cases it seems that social media offers the perfect outlet for those without a personal connection to the deceased, but who feel personally triggered by the death. Long gone are the days of "send flowers in lieu of" to show one's sympathy. Today sympathy is measured in the length of one's Facebook post and how many kind words you can share with any onlookers who may see it.

Unless the deceased was a close friend or family member, then one is really not affected by their life. For the most part I believe those who latch to social media to mourn are most affected by their death. It brings up the notion that we as humans do not live infinite lives and that each day is a mystery as to whether or not we will see tomorrow.

Social media allows us to live in the present, whereas death makes us question our future. It only seems natural that a generation brought up to express themselves through blog posts and over filtered photos would take to social media to attempt to console themselves of the vulnerability death makes us feel. Although I personally do not feel that this is the most appropriate means of mourning, who am I to judge. Death takes its toll on all humans in unique ways and I can not change the fact that grief sounds better to people as a status update than in spoken word.

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