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Social media & faith

A wedding and a funeral merge on Facebook

While packing for a trip to attend my grandmother's funeral, I quickly updated my Facebook status: "Heading for Iowa for the funeral of my 93-year-old grandmother. She wrote inspiring letters that shaped my faith and I will miss her. Rest eternal grant her, O Lord, and may light perpetual shine upon her."

We finished packing, loaded up the family and got on the road for two days in Iowa.

michael d. watsonAt the hotel, after the visitation, I read a few comments from my friends:

"Clint, I'm so sorry for your loss."

"Sounds like she was an amazing woman."

These brief responses deepened and echoed the words of comfort I'd heard in person from those at the visitation.

Over the course of the weekend I was filled with other memories of my grandma and added an occasional post. Soon most of my friends who visit Facebook daily knew Grandma had died. Many prayed and offered words of comfort.

On a lunch stop during the drive home, we ran into friends who happened to be in Decorah, Iowa, for a wedding. "So sorry to hear about your grandma," they said.

The "ambient intimacy" that some say is the hallmark of this social networking phenomenon was on display. In cases such as this, Facebook deepens rather than diminishes face-to-face relationships. We didn't have to go into detail about why we were in Decorah. Our friends already knew, having read my updates over the past couple of days. Instead, we were free to talk about Grandma and celebrate her life.

When I checked Facebook after returning home that Sunday evening, these same friends had posted wedding photos to their profiles. We were able to vicariously attend the wedding through these immediate digital dispatches. Before Facebook, we may never have seen photos of the wedding.


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