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On the first weekend of November many churches will be observing Memorial Sunday, a day to remember and celebrate those who have gone before us. This fact prompted me to reflect on the role of social media in this remembrance and celebration. Due to the particularities of social media (a world that seems to be a world within the real one), this reflection will make more sense to the readers who participate in one of these sites.
Social media enhances in different ways the communion that we have among Christians. I use Facebook, and I often see my friends sharing Bible verses, testimonies and prayer concerns. This allows me to know what is happening in their lives and churches even if they are far away. But this Facebook Christian communion may extend beyond the ones who are present today. It may involve also the ones who have gone before us to be with God. All these Christians, the ones here and the ones who have preceded us, are a communion of saints (those set apart for God through Christ’s salvation). It is in this communion where the use of social media, especially Facebook, becomes fascinating.
I come to this topic with all due respect to the persons who have experienced the loss of a loved one and the pain and grief that comes with it. In addition, I come also with my own need, which may be a shared need with other readers, to better understand the Facebook relationship between the persons who are still here and the ones who have gone before us.
Human beings seem to have this need/desire to be in communion with their loved ones, alive or deceased. In fact, one of the synonyms of communion is spiritual union. This spiritual union or connection with a deceased person does not disappear because he/she is no longer here. In fact, sometimes it is even stronger.
I have noticed in Facebook how many of my friends remember their loved ones by sharing photos, memories and thoughts about them. Some people have even created a special page for their loved ones who passed away before the use of Facebook. It is even more fascinating to observe this spiritual connection with people who recently died, and who had their own Facebook page.
I have been thinking about this topic for some time, and at the beginning of my reflections I found it strange that some of my friends would even tag deceased persons as if they were still alive. So, I pondered: What are they trying to achieve? Since I consider these friends as solid Christians, I knew that they were not attempting to communicate with the deceased person. Later I realized that most likely they were trying to connect again with these loved ones. Furthermore, by tagging them, they were remembering them, together with the group of friends that the deceased person had.
Facebook is a cybernetic place to visit with people and connect with them. As I reflected on this sense of connection, I thought about how some people bring flowers to their loved ones’ grave on special dates, or how we honor our loved ones by providing the altar flowers at church. Posting in Facebook about a loved one, or even tagging this loved one who is not present with us anymore, is no different than bringing flowers to the grave or to the church. It is a way of connecting. It is a way of remembering, loving, longing for, honoring and sharing about this special person. The only difference is the space. The church and the grave are physical spaces, while Facebook is a cybernetic space, but a space nonetheless.
At the end of the day, most of us are looking for a sense of connection. These spaces allow us to connect, to remember and to dream/hope for the day that we will be in heaven, together again with our loved ones in the complete communion of saints. For now, we have the grave to visit, the church to bring flowers, and Facebook to remember and honor our loved ones. May God bless us in our journey through life as we keep connecting with all our loved ones — here and there.
This column was originally published on Oct. 28, 2014.