Megan Garber’s article “Enter the Grief Police” deals with a topic that I have mentioned in previous blog posts: the grief demonstrated online and more specifically on Facebook. She begins by presenting her belief that the Internet has allowed society to publicly display their feelings of grief once again. She cites 20th century culture as the beginning of a movement that encouraged grief to be kept to the personal self. Now, with Social Media features, such as Facebook’s “Remembering” preservation of a profile, we can express these emotions freely once again. However, Garber believes that this transition to previously held values is causing discomfort, and this discomfort is leading to push back against these expressions. While I do share Garber’s sentiment that there has been push back against this public display of grief, I would hesitate to call the movement a “Grief Police.”
I would like to start off by saying that my formerly stated belief is not rooted in history that dates back to the 20th century, but rather in my experiences as a social media user. I was not aware that it was possible to keep a person’s social media profile alive past their expiration date until a year ago when I saw a mass amount of comments being posted on a friends wall. That friend had been shot in a drive-by near the projects in Charlotte, NC and many of her friends could be seen sending supportive messages. I was not close to this friend, so I did not post anything but was still saddened by the news. However, I did see other people ,in my exact position, writing long-winded posts that described their love for the deceased person. That is not okay, and it is annoying. These are the generally held beliefs of those who push back against public grieving. I am sure that , had the dead person been witness to these posts, they would have reacted with “I’m sorry, who are you?” I believe that any human is free to grieve in their own way, be it private or public. But, when grieving becomes a false action that people engage in simply to go with the norm or fit in with everyone else, it devalues the action as a whole.
Since my initial experience with public grievances, I have encountered many fake and real forms of online grieving. It is sometimes hard to identity the differences between the two, unless one is familiar with the deceased person. I have also encountered the people who share my sentiment, yet go out of their way to express it. These people are often very outspoken, such as Camilla Long was when she called out the fake grievers of David Bowie’s death . She specifically called out people who were sharing their “broken up” emotions over the death of an iconic artist, wanting them to articulate their feelings more efficiently or to create constructive discourse. I agree with her. People who do not know him or have met him are feeling emotional about his death. Can you imagine how the family feels? Can you imagine how those close to him, those who shared life with him, feel? I would pose this question to all those who engage in public grieving for the sake of social performance. Take a step back from the keyboard before you post that really long message describing how much you will miss someone who you did not well. This performance is annoying, it is overdone, and it is insulting for those who really wish to grieve online.
I am in no way telling people not to grieve online, I believe it can be constructive and in some ways cathartic. I am simply saying that the faux “Omg I’m going to miss you so much xoxo” messages are unnecessary and should stop. Judging from the reading, Garber would consider me as part of the Grief Police, and this is where we disagree. I do not believe that the concept of a “Grief Police” is even real. Yes, there are individuals like Long who wish people would express their grief more privately, but these people usually keep to themselves. Long has sixty thousand followers on Twitter, and this gives her a stage on which she may express her views. The majority of this so called “Grief Police” does not.
In my experience, those who share my beliefs would think thrice before telling someone that they should not grieve publicly. We are all entitled to our opinions, and we have the freedom to post what we want. Is it annoying? Sure. But there is no massive group , at least not one that I have encountered , of social media users who try to dictate how grief is expressed. The use of the term “Grief Police” assumes that there is a group, and this group is consistently checking up on social media users to make sure that their feelings concerning a death are internalized. This is not the case. We just find these posts annoying and would prefer to not see them. This can be easily done with the click of a few buttons, so why would there even be a need for a Grief Police? Those who care enough about these types of posts will do something to make sure they don’t see them, but they will not go out of their way to offend those grieving.
If anything, Grief Moderators would be a better term. This term does not assume that there is a group of people trying to control what everyone says, but rather what they themselves see. They moderate their newsfeed to see, or avoid seeing posts concerning a death. These moderators are moderating their own experience, not that of others.