Social networking expert Ze Frank talked at the ICCFA 2010 convention about why funeral directors and cemeterians shouldn't dismiss social networks such as Facebook as places where people just "fool around." Yes, there is a lot of fooling around, he said, but that's what makes people want to hang out there--people like to fool around. But, he said, "if something important happens to the network, if somebody passes away, if somebody is born, if there's a crisis, the network goes crazy, because that's what it's primed to do."
I think about that comment comment every time one of my Facebook friends (the vast majority of whom are NOT funeral directors/cemeterians--I'm on there for social, not business reasons) writes about "something important." When a baby is born or someone has a birthday or gets a new job, congratulatory messages come pouring in. When a family member is ill, people write words of encouragement and hope. When a pet or loved one dies, people send condolences and remember their own losses. I'm amazed sometimes, having heard about some of the jaw-droppingly inappropriate and/or hurtful comments the bereaved are sometimes subjected to by people struggling to find something to say, how heartfelt, appropriate and helpful the comments are.
Last week I noticed a prime example of what Ze Frank described. Nicholas D. Kristof, Pulitzer-Prize-winning columnist for the New York Times, has a lot of followers on Facebook--more than 161,000. His columns tackle tough, emotional international issues--he is particularly known for shining a spotlight on the situation in Darfur. His Facebook updates citing the topic of his latest columns routinely draw 60, 90, 150 comments. But recently, several of his updates have been more personal. One early this month about having had surgery drew more than 300 comments. And then, on June 16, he wrote that his father had died. As of today, that post has drawn more than 1,000 comments--most from people who don't personally know Kristof and didn't know his father. Some simply say, "I'm so sorry for your loss," but all seem sincere and I'm sure were appreciated.