Author

Molly Kalan

Date of Award

12-2013

Embargo Date

3-26-2015

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Media Studies

Advisor(s)

Carol Liebler

Keywords

Facebook, grief, memorialization, online community, online identity, thanatechnology

Subject Categories

Communication

Abstract

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.

Access

Open Access

Included in

Communication Commons

Share

COinS
 
 

To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.