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R.I.P. etiquette

Cheyenne Geysen
Op-Ed Editor

Online bullying is not a new phenomenon. It was done with chatrooms and e-mails long before the invention of Facebook, Twitter, or any other social networking site. Sadly enough, people committing suicide over online bullying isn’t something that cropped up with Facebook, either.

What is new – and equally disgusting – is people being able to continue to attack someone after they are no longer alive to defend themselves. This is made possible in a few ways. First, Facebook does not deactivate an individual’s account after they are deceased unless a family member contacts the site to expressly request it. So people who are “friends” with the deceased on Facebook can still post on his/or her “wall."

Secondly, and most commonly, Facebook allows its’ users to create “groups” – basically open forums for posting content, based around a common theme. Quite often, after someone passes away, a close friend or family member will create a group meant to keep the memory of the deceased alive, as well as provide an outlet for grieving for those left behind. For many of these group pages, the privacy level is set to “open,” which allows anyone with a Facebook account to post.

This problem is clearly illustrated in the case of Billy Lucas, the 15-year-old Indiana boy who committed suicide after allegedly being bullied for being gay. On the Facebook memorial page created for Lucas, the bullying continued. Lucas’ family, already grieving, were subject to humiliating and degrading comments about their son, brother, and grandson.

Even the comments meant to be helpful and supportive were not always taken as such – his mother claimed Lucas was not homosexual, and she resented the members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community that flocked to Lucas’ memorial page to defend him.

Slain North Delta teen Laura Szendrei’s memorial page was riddled with similar malicious comments. Both of these cases received national attention.

What does it say about our society when we attack those who aren’t even alive to defend themselves? When we add to legitimate grieving by saying ridiculously awful things? We as a society seem to have this idea that typing things into a computer voids the emotional content of what we’re saying.

That idea couldn’t be more wrong. Real people read those comments. It’s disgusting that some people can treat other human beings with such disrespect, especially in the case of someone who is deceased.

If you wouldn’t say something to someone’s face, then you shouldn’t say it on his or her Facebook page, either. So you didn’t like the person who passed away – that doesn’t mean you need to broadcast it to the world. Keep your sandbox arguments out of the ring of grieving people who want to remember positive things about their loved one. No one in this world is perfect. Once someone has passed away, people only want to remember good things.

Hiding behind a computer screen doesn’t make you cool. It doesn’t render your comments meaningless or emotionally void. Try to remember that the Golden Rule applies on Facebook just as much as it does in real life – treat others how you want to be treated. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

And stay the fuck off memorial pages if you’re not going to be polite.

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