Posting the Dark Side: Social Media and Death

By Martin Calderon, 16

Martin Calderon, 16, is a junior at Gwendolyn Brooks College Prepatory Academy. He was an intern at the Field Museum spreading awareness on events in Chicago and was an Environmental Club member who helped to create his school garden.He is a participant in the Youth Narrating Our World (YNOW) through the OpEd Project.

While fans mourn the recent loss of Fast & Furious actor Paul Walker, posting thoughtful tributes on Facebook and Twitter, social media after death has a dark side. These sites can be memorials for those who have passed away but also battlegrounds for those left behind.

The death of celebrities and the suicides of bullying victims can start disputes on status comment threads between friends, family, random users and sometimes employers. This has been seen through the suicides of Amanda Todd and Rebecca Sedwick, and the deaths of various celebrities such as Cory Monteith and Walker.

Scrolling down my Facebook page the week of Amanda Todd's suicide, I saw pages and friends sharing her story and paying tribute. Simultaneously, certain statuses disregarded her and the people who were admiring and memorializing Amanda.

Critics belittled Amanda, saying she is only one of thousands of teens who committed suicide as a result of bullying. They asked why all of the others weren't remembered and commemorated. Then there were the statuses saying no one will remember Amanda a few months from now.

This is where the arguments between friends began. Many of my Facebook friends shared her story and defended against those who posted statuses about their indifference or contempt. Others posted about how people should stop overreacting to the one suicide and remember she's not the only one. There were even statuses scorning others for making statuses against statuses that defended her.

The fusion of death and social media can lead to a chain reaction of quarrels among friends who may become foes over someone they never even met.