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Posted on November 7, 2016 at 10:50 AM

As social media has surged
in our society, how we interact with people has shifted.  Some of us spend
more time texting and emailing than talking to a human face.  This may be
especially true for those who have an office job.  We as a society have
expressed concern about the possible health effects from increased screen
exposure, such as the impact computer screens have on vision and memory.  We also have expressed concern
about how screen exposure will affect childhood development, particularly
social interactions. So what affect has this increased screen exposure caused
on how we console another for the loss of a loved one?

Consoling is a skill that
clinical ethicists learn quickly as many consults is related to end-of-life
issues. It is as simple as offering a tissue for a grieving family member but
more than simply saying “I am sorry for your loss.”  It is an ability to
read another human’s grief.  Consoling is arguably a fundamental component
to our society as loss is a natural part of the human process.  Consoling
is a way of experiencing the grieving process and accepting loss.

recent New York Times article gave us some
advice on how to console those who have experienced death.  The article
gave seven points of advice, one of which was “Facebook is not enough.” 
It made the point that a message or post via Facebook is a great first gesture
but that one should follow up with something more such as a condolence card or
attending the funeral. What is interesting about this advice is that it
acknowledges that social interaction through social media is not the same as
social interaction in person. This may seem like an obvious statement to some,
but our increasing use of social media for basic human interactions may suggest
this is not as obvious of a statement.

One advantage for social media is the ability to
remain connected to more people than previously.  However, this is a
double-edged sword, as the more people we become connected to the less
connected we become to people.  It becomes quantity of connections over
quality of connections.  When Facebook first opened to the public, there
was a movement to see how “friends” one could have. But how many of those were
truly friends? How many of those individuals would you have even sent a message
saying, “I am sorry for your loss”? As more and more of us send more of our
social interactions through a screen, it will be interesting to see how our
ability to console another changes. 


The Alden March Bioethics Institute offers a Master of Science in Bioethics, a Doctorate of Professional Studies in Bioethics, and Graduate Certificates in Clinical Ethics and Clinical Ethics Consultation. For more information on AMBI’s online graduate programs, please visit our website.


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