Allison Gilbert is the author of Passed and Present, and the critically acclaimed books Parentless Parents and Always Too Soon. She is also co-editor of Covering Catastrophe, the definitive historical record of how broadcast journalists covered 9/11. Allison’s work has been featured in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Huffington Post, and on NPR, CNN, FOX, MSNBC, CBS, and ABC. Visit Allison’s Website, Facebook, Instagram, & Twitter. Allison provides presentations and workshops for funeral homes, hospice programs, and related organizations.
4 Ways to Use Social Media to Remember Loved Ones
Technology is the low-hanging fruit of memory-keeping. Emails, texts, social media and apps allow us to work virtually and socialize remotely. The power of these devices can easily be harnessed to keep your loved one’s memory alive. The tools are already in your pocket and on your desk. By incorporating memories into your digital life, a dual opportunity exists to reflect and receive: You can share memories while simultaneously taking comfort in the stories and support that ricochet back.
I encourage you to integrate your loved one into the rich and varied digital life you already lead—whether at home, work, or on the go. The Forget Me Nots below are my top four ways to use social media to remember loved ones.
1. Post and Invite Comments. Last week was the 20th anniversary of my mother’s death from ovarian cancer. On that day, on my personal Facebook page, I posted a picture of us and asked friends and family to share their memories of my mom in the comments. So many people posted, many more than I expected, and I wrote about the uplifting experience on my blog HERE. I encourage you to post and invite comments on days that are meaningful to you: your loved one’s birthday, the anniversary of his or her death, Father’s Day or Mother’s Day. On the date, update your Facebook status by requesting friends and family share a favorite memory; consider including a photo. You can also temporarily swap your profile picture for a photo of your loved one. This will serve as a visual cue there’s something different going on that deserves attention.
2. Generate a Digital Wave of Light. Worldwide Candle Lighting is an immense annual event run by The Compassionate Friends, a nonprofit based outside Chicago. Similar to how New Year’s Eve unfolds, the event kicks off at the same time no matter where you live on the planet—the second Sunday in December at 7:00 pm—when individuals light candles at home or in large groups in memory of children who have died. The goal is to bridge countries and time zones by creating a wave of light that lasts twenty-four hours. This Forget Me Not guides you in building on the Worldwide Candle Lighting concept, customizing it to create an opportunity for remembering at any time of year. Here’s what you do:
Create a hashtag on Twitter. For example, if your loved one’s name were Lynn, your hashtag could be #rememberinglynn.
Pick a time for your remembrance—a birthday, holiday, or special occasion—and let your inner circle know.
When the date arrives, encourage everyone to light a candle, take a picture of it, and post it to Twitter using the hashtag.
3. Embrace Throwback Thursday. You’re likely familiar with #TBT. Throwback Thursday is a social media trend that encourages users to share favorite memories on a weekly basis. While commonly used to post childhood photos, it also provides the perfect opportunity to post pictures of loved ones who are no longer with us. It can be remarkably satisfying to see their image pop up in your Facebook or Twitter feed, especially if he or she died before the digital era.
4. Be Creative with Video. I thank my daughter for sparking the following idea. One afternoon, Lexi bounded home from a play date eager to show me her latest creation. She and her best friend had spent the afternoon making a Flipagram out of dozens of selfies. The Flipagram app uses photos on your smartphone to create fun and quirky videos. You control the amount of time each picture is displayed, the shortest length being just .01 seconds. The result is a fast-paced movie that animates even the most ordinary images. You can also add music and share the videos via Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. It didn’t take me long to see an unexpected and thrilling opportunity with this. By making a Flipagram, I could take a few pictures out of their current, underappreciated context of photo albums and present them in the more inviting, contemporary framework of social media. All that was required was downloading the Flipagram app and selecting a few pictures to snap with my phone.