Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Facebook, grief, memorialization, online community, online identity, thanatechnology
When someone dies, their online identity does not die with them. If a deceased Facebook user leaves behind a once active profile, friends and family members may choose to use this virtual space to express grief, interact with one another, and engage in active memorialization. Young adults who are traditionally marginalized in the grieving process can take advantage of the digital space to engage in mourning rituals. Through qualitative inquiry and in-depth interviews with 20 young adults who have dealt with the death of a friend or family member on Facebook, this study addresses phenomenological research questions concerning expression of grief on Facebook, what memorialization on Facebook entails, and how young adults interact with a deceased user's profile. Grief theories and characteristics of social network sites (SNSs) are considered as concepts of thanatechnology and online community are explored. Emergent theme analysis shows that young adults can contribute to a dynamic memory archive associated with a friend's identity by sharing stories and photographs on Facebook. Finding and giving support as well as maintaining a connection with the deceased are important to participants, who navigate a complicated hierarchy of acceptable expression, based on their relative closeness to the deceased. Participants also express varying levels of comfort and discomfort, related to appropriate expression and interaction with a persistent profile. This research study discusses the implications of such interaction, concluding that Facebook prevents users from addressing the fundamental reality of death and that the site can enable disingenuous expression of grief.
Kalan, Molly, "Expressions of Grief on Facebook: Navigating Discomfort, Persistent Identity, and Public Memorialization" (2013). Theses - ALL. 18.