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The Reaction on Facebook to Steve Jobs Death & What We Can Learn From It

Steve Jobs Death

Where were you when you heard about the attacks on Sept. 11, Hurricane Katrina or the death of Princess Diana? Most people have a clear memory of what they were doing at the time of a major world event. Where were you when you first heard about the death of Apple CEO & Innovator Steve Jobs? I was on Facebook… Were you? What was once simply a tool for staying connected with friends has become so much more:

  • A news source.
  • A place to share common interests.
  • And a way for people to communicate about grief.

If you have logged onto Facebook in the past few days your news feed probably has been flooded with photos, videos, and status updates honoring Steve Jobs. It makes sense. He was an American Icon. Since most people never got the chance to thank Jobs personally they did so on Facebook. Some of your friends might have changed their profile pictures or wrote a status update in his honor.

 

By its very nature Facebook encourages you to share your thoughts and feelings. When you do, it opens the door for helpful communication in talking about grief. On Facebook your friends are able to acknowledge your feelings by leaving comments or “liking” what they read. And with the death of someone like Steve Jobs the numerous status updates remind us that it’s normal to have feelings about the death of a public figure. What an amazing way to know we aren’t alone in our grief! What happened on Facebook makes sense, but just like in the real world, it’s easy to spread negative information online about recovering from loss. For example there were many comments such as: “Did you even know Steve Jobs?”  Implying that one needs to have an intimate personal relationship to grieve a death. Which of course is not true. Or “He is in a better place.” It may or may not be true that he is in a better place, but that does not change the feeling of sadness or shock over his death. Even on Facebook and even with the death of a celebrity it’s important to remember that intellect plays a very small part in recovering from loss. Steve Jobs affected many people for many reasons. For most, it appeared his death inspired gratitude, appreciation, and admiration. For others, it triggered a memory. 

 

Comment after comment people talked about their first experiences with Apple products and their memories attached. When a relationship ends or changes there are usually things we wish could have been different, better, or more.  Those undelivered communications are unresolved grief. In regard to Steve Jobs, people expressed that they wished they had the opportunity to thank him.  With a public figure you might never get a chance to personally do so… But let’s use the death of this American icon to remind us to do so with our friends and family.  Let’s be clear… What we saw on Facebook is an undelivered emotional communication. Steve Jobs death reminded me how I avoided using Apple products for years until, through much prodding, my brother talked me into getting a Mac computer.  I realized I had never thanked my brother for that. Who in your life do you owe a simple thank you to?  Could it be the neighbor who waters your plants or a co-worker who tells funny jokes by the water cooler?   Maybe there are some things to talk over with your mother or brother. If you appreciate someone tell him or her.   It’s simple to do and will keep you complete. Click the "Like" button above to share this article with your friends on Facebook.  And feel free to join our mailing list located on the top right of this page.

Comments

Well said!!!

I love this article! When Steve Jobs passed, I had a very visceral and profound feeling about it and I really needed to express myself. The computers that Mr. Jobs invented and continued to innovate were and are directly linked to my life's work. In fact, not a day in the last fifteen years has gone by without using one of his inventions. I would not be the person I am today without the anonymous influence of this incredible man. Thanking him publicly is very important to me and well deserved.


I really love how you ended this article reminding us to acknowledge those that are still with us. I often forget to tell the ones I love how important they are to me. Thank you for the reminder.


Thank you Steve Jobs and thank you AJ for writing this article.

I think its about time!

wow, I had to take some time to gather my thoughts before I left a comment. there are layers and layers to this for me. just know that this hits home for me and probably everyone I know. I deeply mourned a celebrity's death earlier this year and I was so confused at to why it hit me so hard. I mean, I don't know this person?! then I realized there were so many childhood memories attached to him. watching him was one of the few things my mother and I did together. it was special, and one of my most vivid memories of her. and there it was. that's what I was grieving. all the words I never said to my mother before she died. the guilt. never making peace. i'm not even sure I fully understood that's what I was mourning until I just read this a few hours ago..


Losing someone always makes us stop and think about the woulda shoulda couldas, and what I SHOULD say the next time I see someone..but then we brush it off and move on. Thanks for this reminder to not just brush it off, because there might not be another opportunity.


Great article. Thanks for sharing.

great job of explaining how an important function of facebook is as a forum of emotional exchange and grief recovery. i couldn't agree more... and i loved the take home message that the outpouring of emotion towards steve jobs the last few days demonstrates how much we all felt for someone who impacted our lives AND how we need to use the time we still have with those still with us to let them know how we feel... because, as we all know... life's short, too short...

There are, I'm sorry to say-so many losses in my life; and for that matter-in ALL of our lives!! It's supposed to be a fact of life. When someone like Steve Jobs passes away, an icon from my lifetime (substitute anyone of significance in YOUR life, who may have passed away), I feel bad for many reasons. On a personal level-I enjoy using pop culture/pop culture icons in my artwork. In a strange sense, and I know I'm not alone here, I just feel like the rest of the World should stop and maybe pause awhile and fully realize who just died, or better yet, be able to wake them up after a short while!!! Thanks for listening, "guys"!!!

with facebook, when there is an event or death, it truly is wonderful to see the collective outpouring from friends, and to hear/say things that may not directly affect the victim, but it sure does make us feel a little better. What would twitter and Facebook have been like during 9/11?

Very well said! I am still trying to let go of my father who has been dead 7 years. I' m not sure I will ever really deeply and fully get past his being gone.

Thank you Janet. There are a number of programs using The Grief Recovery Method. If you call 800-334-7606 they'd be happy to help with the loss of your father.

Thank you all for the comments and participation!

Well written and thoughtful piece. I see a lot of "RIPs" on Facebook for "celebs" and often times think it is juts drama. I wonder, has this person really touched the lives of the people who are eulogizing them ? I had no such feelings in this case. For many of us, the very object we were using to write our notes was inspired by the man. This is one case where his influence had a direct connection to the way we connect to each other.

Wow! Thank you for putting a voice to my feelings and reminding all of us of what is important in life.

Allison, Thank you for the article. Well said!

Very thought-provoking blog, Allison. Thanks for sharing. A few months after my wife died I realized I could go on feeling abandoned, lost and sorrowful. Instead, I decided that whenever I thought of her, I would be grateful...grateful for almost 40 years that she graced my life, bringing joy to our partnership. I still think of her...and I am always grateful. I am also grateful for The Grief Recovery Method, which helped me to complete our relationship and recover from my grief.

I paused when Steve Jobs died and remembered one of the most creatively spontaneous giants in his field. I have often wondered how in comparison to another company he was David v Goliath, only in size and did so much to set another path for others to follow. I have a sense of sorrow that he is no longer with us. Indeed always wondering what he will do next has been a wondrous anticipated mystery never knowing what he would come up with. I am sorry to see his light go out, but his memory and family will be with us for longer.

I always feel like there's something wrong with me, b/c I can't get that upset about people who died when I didn't know them, although I DID get upset when Bea Arthur died. She was my favorite actress.

And I know someone who died on September 11 but, try as I might, I never felt like people REALLY know how I feel about the one who died, even though almost every single American I've ever MET thinks "we're going through the same thing, we share your grief."

I felt like saying "Oh. So you also have a memory of him taking you to the Gettysburg Civil War reenactments every year? And of all the things he did with you on holidays and regular days?

I tried to understand that they were only trying to help, but I never really liked that all of them kept saying they "share" my grief and are feeling it too.

I believe they felt their OWN grief, but I don't think they felt mine.

I don't even like to mention that I knew someone who died on September 11, b/c of how conditioned I am to expect to hear that they know exactly how I feel. And I stopped telling regular people about it last year, after some overzealous guy couldn't leave us alone about it.

That probably sounds ungrateful of me, but I couldn't take another day of people telling me they know how I feel, so I stopped talking about it.

No, they did that with Whitney Houston on mine. I have lots of friends who liked her. I couldn't get that upset about her either, but I felt sorry for the family, b/c I knew what the reporters were going to do at her funeral and that the family wouldn't even get to have the FUNERAL without reporters sticking cameras in their faces.

My family became part of an international news event on September 11, 2001.

Hi Vickie,

I will respond to each of your comments above.


First: As you know from an email interaction we had recently, the first thing we do is to acknowledge that “we don’t know how you feel,” nor do we think anyone else ever does. In part this is because “every relationship that ever happened on planet earth is unique, there are no exceptions.”


We never want to rob people of the dignity of those unique relationships by saying we know how they feel. As to the issue of having feelings about people who died who we didn’t know: Your comment about Bea Arthur is a great example. The fact is that you did know her through watching her on TV – so much so that she was your favorite actress – but you just hadn’t actually met her.


Second, regarding the media: We agree. The invasion of the media into people’s private, emotional lives is horrendous, and does nothing valuable to help the families deal with their broken hearts. Unfortunately, there’s no way it’s ever going to stop. Which makes all the more reason that people need valuable and helpful information about dealing with death and all other losses.


Warm regards, Russell

The best ways often come from random pealcs, and often by random acts. I returned home after my father had died to find that someone had planted pansies all around my patio ..and the kindest sympathy note came from the wife of a dear friend-a woman who had never met my father and did not know me very well. Despite that, she dug deeply into her own rememberences of loss and sent such a heartfelt letter.This is a perfect example of Do unto others. If all you can muster is I am sorry for your loss , then you might just think about skipping it. No one is sorrier than the one who has lost. Find something meaningful to say or do, or let them grieve in peace

Hi Edson, You are so right! The phrase, “I’m sorry” can be perceived as either helpful or not helpful by grieving people. The reason that it’s not well received almost always relates to whether or not the person saying it knew the person who died—or as you indicate, how well they knew you.

Hi Vickie,


I will respond to each of your comments above.


First: As you know from an email interaction we had recently, the first thing we do is to acknowledge that “we don’t know how you feel,” nor do we think anyone else ever does. In part this is because “every relationship that ever happened on planet earth is unique, there are no exceptions.”


We never want to rob people of the dignity of those unique relationships by saying we know how they feel. As to the issue of having feelings about people who died who we didn’t know: Your comment about Bea Arthur is a great example. The fact is that you did know her through watching her on TV – so much so that she was your favorite actress – but you just hadn’t actually met her.


Second, regarding the media: We agree. The invasion of the media into people’s private, emotional lives is horrendous, and does nothing valuable to help the families deal with their broken hearts. Unfortunately, there’s no way it’s ever going to stop. Which makes all the more reason that people need valuable and helpful information about dealing with death and all other losses.


Warm regards, Russell

I was wondering about another idea, wondering whether it's more misinformation or what.

But I have an online friend whose son was killed at Columbine. He made a video of the most memorable and fun moments he had with his son and put it on You Tube.

Somebody asked him if he's always upset about it or if he has trouble finding happiness.

He replied with "Sometimes it seems like it's going to overwhelm me, but then I think that my son would want me to be happy."


Is saying that the deceased would want you to be happy another of those myths?

Any gesture is beettr than no gesture at all.If you can't think of something to say or do, then it's OK to say, I can't think of the right thing to say, but know that I'm thinking of you. or I don't know what to say, but I care about you and wish you well. or I'm not sure what to say, but I wish you fond memories of your mom. Let's sort through pictures when you're ready.

I wanted to share with you a new application that I'm using to create a memory book for my grandfather who recently passed away. It's called Evertalk and it's a Facebook application. I found it to be very easy to use and highly recommend it. www.everta.lk

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