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Grief and deep-liking on Facebook.

It is now 0017hrs and I am typing in this space while weeping like shit because I feel so full of sad. But I know I will be okay in the morning because I have a work meeting to get to, then I have to teach two classes, then I have to e-lecture, then I have to get a revise-and-resubmit in.

This means that I will weep like shit while purging all my sad now, then weep and toss and turn in bed for hours on end. But when the sun rises, I will get up from bed and wash up and dress up and head to work and kick butt and impress people in life and do my work day with maximum work ethic and maximum brain. Because this is what I do.

Days like this, I really take comfort in the fact that I know how to get the sad out of my body. I got really lucky figuring out what my coping mechanisms are early on in my teenage years. I know what I need to do and how to do the things that recalibrate my heart and head, so that I can get back on track with life and be a functional human person. But getting into this space and being articulate about it is quite the effort. Even though I try very hard not to come to here too often, some times my head needs to do what my heart needs for itself.

There must be hundreds of guides on the internet about grief and etiquette in digital spaces. This is not one of them. This is a rant to get all the bad feelings out of my body so that I can feel better inside and go to sleep. This is about how I am upset over some one who is deep-liking my old Facebook posts about my sister’s demise.


This bout of sad began on Sunday when a friend on Facebook ‘reacted’ to a status update I posted 111 days ago (I actually counted). It was a post I left on my sister’s Facebook wall, informing her friends of her demise and details of her memorial service. The Facebook friend who ‘reacted’ to this status update was not recently tagged or notified in any way – I can only venture a guess that they must have manually scrolled through my/my sister’s wall to get to this post.

Mind you, there have been a whole string of posts on both mine and my sister’s walls since then, so that must have been some intense trudging to get to these earlier posts – or “deep-liking”, as young people and tech pundits like to call it these days. Said Facebook friend is also not particularly close to or familiar with my sister and I, so perhaps they had just learnt about the news? Regardless, seeing this notification on an extremely sorrowful piece of history was jolting.

Yet, I did not confront the person.

Instead, I talked this out with my partner, my best friends, and my sister’s best friends.

One of my sister’s best friends suggested I delete the post if receiving further notifications was upsetting me. He rationalised that the post had already served its purpose of disseminating information about the memorial service. But I told him that I wanted to preserve my sister’s Facebook wall in tact, especially a post as significant as this that was now part of her (digital) legacy.

One of my best friends suggested I speak to said Facebook friend to explain my discomfort. She asserted that not every one may be familiar with digital etiquette when it comes to grief and death (and this is very true, because I had to stop two *adults* from taking pictures of/with my sister’s casket at the memorial service. #funeralselfies really are a thing). But I told her I didn’t want to police how people grief.

My partner – my voice of reason and the one person in the whole world who knows my heart inside out – gave me no suggestions. He let me cry and rant senselessly over FaceTime, comforting me in our language and promising me all the consolation and affect when we next reunite. He always responds first to my immediate needs by soothing me, before working his brain on the practicalities.

So this was my Sunday. I wept and grieved and wiped it all off my face to kick butt at work on Monday. I survived my work day on Monday. I took Tuesday slowly to purge all the sad and to get my head back into work.

But tonight, I received this:


As it turns out, the same Facebook friend ‘liked’ a similar post from 100 days ago (yes I counted again). This time, it was a status update on my own wall on how I was learning to cope with loss and returning to being a functioning human person again. Seeing this really really caught me off guard, especially since I was still bruised and recovering from Sunday’s deep-like.

Among all the private angry/sad rants I had tonight, one of my best friends concernedly suggested I block or delete said Facebook friend, or have a conversation with them about how I felt about their deep-likes. But I reiterated that I didn’t want to police how people grieve, and that I need to make sense of this discomfort I feel.

So *why* do I feel this upset about some one on the internet deep-liking my old Facebook posts about grief? (Please understand that I am merely brainfarting and trying to make sense of my grief and sad feelings. These feelings are also independent of whoever said Facebook friend is. My heart and body are reacting to a faceless, nameless Facebook user and I want to understand why I have these reactions.)

1) I feel as if said Facebook friend is merely ‘liking’ a popular (read: highly ‘liked’) post because it is trendy. Perhaps it is group pressure or the desire to signpost/earmark that one has seen or witnessed a significant/milestone post.

2) I feel that said Facebook friend’s deep-liking is a public ‘stalking’ trace that they are currently ploughing through my social media history. Perhaps this makes me feel uneasy, even though I am aware and privacy-literate about my digital estates.

3) I feel as if said Facebook friend’s deep-like is bringing unnecessary visibility to an old Facebook post that will now jolt our mutual friends back into that raw, fresh grieving space nestled in the climax of the tragedy.

4) I feel that said Facebook friend’s deep-like notifications are unintentionally inconsiderate and unproductive, especially since I have made progress transiting out of grief in the last 16 weeks, and do not wish to be involuntarily sucked back into this space.

But how old does a post have to be for a ‘like’ to be a ‘deep-like’? How far back is too far? What is a decent period of time for a post to accumulate reactions before it should be archived? When does the ‘currency of likes’ for a post expire?

Does any of this make sense?

You know what the funny thing is?

It wasn’t Facebook’s “Inadvertent Algorithmic Cruelty” that upset me. Facebook shows me throwback review images and posts of my sister and I every week or so. These have always been precious to me, and they make me beam no matter the content. Whenever my sister’s close friends share their throwback Facebook reviews, I conscientiously take a screenshot and file them away, and my heart fills with a weird, jarring, ambivalent joy to know she is so loved by so many people.

But these are functions of an algorithm. And perhaps because I am a social media scholar, I understand these algorithms enough to not be *that* angry at them. What gets me upset is the human person, driven by human will, using human choice, to enact human action, to deep-like a sensitive Facebook post about grief.

Does it make sense that I am more upset with a person than a machine?

It has been more than three months since I wrote this post about what holding space really looks like before, during, and after the death of my sister.

Today, I am still receiving private correspondence from friends and strangers in reaction to these words (the count for this week is x01 email, x01 text message). But these kind words and consolations are not the same as deep-likes on Facebook. These are precious words and stories and hearts and tears that required affect, empathy, and courage to make coherent and make available to another grieving person – to me. I appreciate all of these so greatly and occasionally read and re-read all the words in my Facebook messages, my Twitter DMs, my Instagram DMs, my WhatsApp texts, my emails, my rainbow box of paper letters from my sister’s friends.

If I have all this and so much more over which to reminisce and hold on to, why am I this upset over deep-likes on Facebook?

Beep here.

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