May 24, 2018
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News can spread a little too fast on Facebook

Renee Ordway
By Renee Ordway, Special to the BDN

There are some great advantages to this techno-filled world of instant communication that we live in.

Embarking on a road trip in nasty weather?

Check out Facebook.

“I’m headed out Route 15 to Dover. Anyone know the condition of the road, especially Charleston Hill?”

Chances are nearly 100 percent that at least one of your “friends” — if not several, or someone somehow connected to one of your friends who also saw your post — will respond, thereby either putting your mind at ease or perhaps causing you to change it.

In case you don’t know the way to Dover, your GPS with your celebrity voice of choice will direct you turn by turn — not that there are any turns between here and there.

Want to get rid of a piano, buy a used set of cross-country skis, share a funny video, simply Tweet or post?

Facebook is a marvelous networking tool.

But, as with anything, there are a few, perhaps unexpected, drawbacks.

Twice in the past three weeks my husband and I have had to notify our children that someone they loved had passed away.

In neither case were the kids with us when we learned the news.

The first death was completely unexpected, and as our own heads reeled with shock, we talked of how and when to let the kids know.

Quite suddenly I realized there was no time for that pause.

Our dear and much-loved friend was a public figure. His death was huge news and within minutes it would be spread across Facebook like a rampant virus.

With Facebook access on their phones and their phones in their hands or on their hips 24 hours a day, we realized that if we wanted to tell them of his death in our own way we needed to do it immediately.

Our son was at a neighbor’s home finishing a school project. We would have preferred to have waited and told him a few hours later when the project was completed.

We couldn’t do that.

This week it was the death of my sister. It was expected but terribly, terribly sad and upsetting for us all.

She died at 8 a.m. Tuesday.

Our daughter has classes all morning and my husband thought it made sense to wait to call her until classes were over.

It did, of course.

But we couldn’t.

We couldn’t take the chance that sometime between those classes (or perhaps during one of them) she might pull up her Facebook page.

My sister wasn’t a public figure, just a well-liked lady in a small, close-knit community and, well, word spreads fast when Phil Brown of Brown’s Funeral Home pulls up in his SUV in your driveway.

Wonderful, loving people started sending family members heartfelt words of support. They wrote beautiful and much-appreciated sentiments.

But it all happens so darn fast.

The words “the victim’s identification is being withheld pending notification of kin” is no longer relevant.

I’ve found great comfort on Facebook these past few days. I’ve been blessed with many, many thoughtful words coming from friends and family near and far.

I wouldn’t trade that.

But I have learned a lesson and I thought perhaps it was worth sharing: We may want to pause for just a moment when we learn of someone’s death or other misfortune before we start posting our sympathies in public.

Because there is still some news that should come to a kid the old-fashioned way — and it should come from Mom and Dad.

Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

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