To share, or not to share

Kristin Kimminau takes a break from working to check her Facebook page.

Story and photo by Eileen Boehmer, NewsNetNebraska

“God Bless you Doc Mullet- You are my brother. Go peacefully.”

This was the status update that Kent Steen read to learn that one of his good friends had died. Steen has had three friends die recently. He learned of two of the deaths on Facebook.

“To be honest, I was a little glad I found out, but I wished I would have found out in a different manner,” Steen said.

Communication has come a long way since the days of pigeon post, smoke signals and the Pony Express. Today, people can share their feelings world-wide with hundreds, if not thousands, of friends instantly through social networking websites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.

But as social networking users know, not all status updates are focused on happy occasions. People also share news about illnesses and the death of loved ones. Spreading the word about these topics online can be a touchy subject.

Matel Rokke lost her grandmother last year. She also had a baby boy.

When she had her baby in September, Rokke shared the news with family and close friends on the phone. Then she shared the news on Facebook with a status update and a picture of her new baby.

“I knew that there were people who wanted to know, and it’s become the easiest way to tell people,” Rokke said.
Rokke said she didn’t update her Facebook friends when her grandmother passed away.

“I did share when [my dog] died, and my cat. But I don’t know if I could ever get on there and say ‘my grandma just died,’” Rokke said.

Kristin Kimminau recently graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. As her graduation day approached, she counted down the days on Facebook to her nearly 200 friends.

“I was just trying to share my joy,” Kimminau said.

Kimminau said she doesn’t share a lot on Facebook. She shares pictures and announces things that she’s proud of, like her graduation.

“I don’t think I would necessarily share bad news – especially about other people. I don’t feel that is my news to tell,” she said.

Steen shares that opinion. On the morning of May 13, Steen’s friend Pete Piersol passed away. He learned about his friend’s death that afternoon but waited until Monday to mention anything about it on Facebook.

“I’m friends with some of his family,” Steen said. “I wanted to make sure to show a little bit of sympathy for what they were going through.”

Steen said he understood why his friends shared news about a death on Facebook.

“I don’t know that I would have found out until it was too late [to participate in the memorial],” Steen said.

He said he shared his friend Pete Piersol’s death on his Facebook page because he felt it was the only way some of his friends would find out.

Rokke also understands that sometimes the circumstances call for a status update.

“If that’s the only way to spread the word – I get that,” she said.

Steen said that people should be cautious about their updates. His advice is to follow “general rules of decency and kindness.”

“The police won’t give out the name of someone who’s died in an accident until the family has been notified,” Steen said. “There aren’t [rules] like that on Facebook.”

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