Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Viral Bereavement

For years now parents and teachers have groaned at the thought of their children using social media sites like Twitter or Facebook.  It is often assumed that the kids are simply wasting time posting weird "duckface" pictures or writing about what they had for dinner.  Though businesses and politicians have embraced social media and used it in effective ways, the assumption has remained that teens are mostly using it in devious ways.

This past weekend there was an accident on I-87 near Clifton Park, New York.  Four teens, driving home from a Siena basketball game were hit by another driver who was reportedly under the influence of alcohol.  Unfortunately, two of the teens died and the other two were seriously injured.  A senseless tragedy that regrettably plays out every day across the nation.  What has struck me is how the students in the area have dealt with the grief they are feeling.  The full story here...

Using social media to express grief is nothing new.  Even my uncle who recently lost his wife to cancer has used Facebook as an outlet of his thoughts and feelings.  But area students went one step further.  They decided they needed an outlet; a ray of hope.  So they took to the web, Twitter to be specific, and started a campaign to brighten the day of the two survivors of the accident.  Using the hashtags, #tebowcallmatt and #missycallbailey, they reached out to the idols of the two injured students to ask them for help.  It worked astonishingly fast.  By nights end, mere hours after they started, they declared mission accomplished.

One of the first things people should do to deal with grief is to find support.  Social media makes it easy for teens to lean on each other and let out their emotions.  Parents should also help the child find other ways to deal with the emotions they are feeling.  In this case, the students found an outlet of their own by using Twitter and Facebook to rally behind their friends.

Sometimes as educators we forget to look beyond the seemingly obvious and see the possibilities.  While many of us would have recommended that they teens express themselves by organizing fundraisers or writing a journal, they took it upon themselves to do what they know and reach a goal.  They took one small step to ease their pain and allowed their friends a small moment of joy in their pain.  We should always be looking for ways to learn from them, they are our future after all.