(Fragment 01) A Widow on Facebook

[Read my excuse for posting bits and pieces.]

Being widowed young disrupts your social networks, along with everything else. As in real life, the break is stark when you interact using Social Media:

On Facebook, the freshly bereaved may be a bit disgusted to find they can choose between relationship status “single” or “it’s complicated.” The latter status may be a bigger bucket now, but as a child of the 60s, I imagine it’s used by the polyamorous and the thought of clicking that box makes me throw up a little. No, it's not fucking "complicated," you dolts. I'm not dating a goat and a girl. I was married and he died. Sounds simple enough to me.

Sure, it’s easy to offend a widow, but how hard can it be to add another check box? Hence there’s the group, “Petition for Facebook to create ‘widowed’ as a relationship status.”

This group is categorized under “Dating and relationships,” which seems a bit off to me. The taxonomy of grieving is a topic that comes up often in these fragmented social media notes; I hope to pull thoughts on this together someday.

Like many, I’m using Facebook to be found by old friends and to maintain relationships that were never (or aren’t now) close. But a lot of folks would just disappear after the initial contact. It’s not called “dropping a w-bomb” for nothing but seriously, how could I answer, “So! What have you been up to for the past 20 years?” without mentioning that my husband died? So I tried to prepare people a little, the way I did with my Match.com ad. Under “Info,” I added:

Because I have had a lot of awkward FB conversations with folks who haven’t seen me in a long time, here’s a short bio:
-- I work as an editor.
-- Have had some jobs in the art world, but not now.
-- I went to college and graduated in 19xx.
-- I got married in 19xx.
-- I went to business school finishing in 20xx.
-- I had a baby in 2004.
-- My husband died in 2006.
-- I remarried in 2008.
I am comfortable talking about my loss, though it doesn't consume my life.

I have to say I don’t think it helped that much because the FB interface buries “evergreen” info. But I still like the idea, and I certainly (as you know) bring up “widow” as an early warning system in any transaction where I think it will be relevant. And I am more cautious of how I bring the topic up in that first FB "What up?!" response, given that e-mail is a less rich, less responsive medium than F2F conversation.

I checked the Facebook page of an art world acquaintance a week or so after he had died. Friends continued to post wall messages, and he was a member of a group art project called “A Book About Death.” It gave me a chill. He must have joined before the accident which killed him. The only other option is that his wife signed him up posthumously, which seems unlikely (though I don’t know her well. Would I do it? Yes, but I’d use my name).

The net gets denser every day -- it seems really weird to me that I know the gallery and many of the artists working on the project.

* * * Comments * * *


Anonymous said...

I actually posted under my FB profile that there was something wrong when divorced and widowed were not offered as options, but "in an open relationship" was. I will definitely be checking out that petition.

Split-Second Single Father said...

Apparently I can't post effectively from my phone. That "anonymous" comment was from me.


Snickollet said...

I hate, hate, hate that many forms that require an indication of marital status do not have "widowed" as a choice. I think it speaks to a broader issue of our culture not being comfortable acknowledging death and the daily presence of grief in the lives of many. It's a huge, awful taboo.

Boo said...

I still tick married, because I still feel like I am. I love your blog BTW, it gives me hope :-)

Chillin' with Lemonade said...

I was just talking about this the other day. I feel like people are just waiting for me to change the status, but I refuse to until there is something that fits who I am...

Abigail said...

I like your idea of a short bio on Facebook in order to avoid those awkward conversations. I too hate the awful check boxes. Am I single or widowed? Why can't I check both?


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