ASIS&T 2013 Annual Meeting 
Montréal, Québec, Canada | November 1-5, 2013

Virtual Mourning and Memory Construction on Facebook: Here are the Terms of Use

Rhonda McEwen, University of Toronto
Kathleen Scheaffer, University of Toronto

Monday, 3:30pm


This article investigates the online information practices of persons grieving and mourning the death of another via Facebook through an examination of how, or if, these practices and Facebook’s terms of use policies have implications for those in mourning and/or the memory of the deceased. To explore these questions the researchers contrasted traditional publicly recorded asynchronous modes of grieving (i.e. obituaries) with Facebook’s asynchronous features (i.e. pages, photos, messages, profiles, comments etc.) Additionally, by applying observational techniques to Facebook memorial pages and Facebook profile pages, conducting a survey, and following-up on survey responses with interviews, the researchers examined the benefits and issues of online information sharing via Facebook when coping with loss. It was found that immediacy of publishing comments, messages, wall posts, photos, etc. provided Facebook mourners with a quick outlet for emotion and a means of timely group support via responding comments; however, these actions directly affect the deceased’s online curation of self, memory, as well as created an environment of competition amongst the mourning. The aforementioned benefits and complications of using Facebook during bereavement are shaped by the policy outlined by Facebook, as Facebook’s present policy leaves the deceased’s surviving family and/or friends to change the status of the profile to be memorialized, close the profile account, or remove a memorial page; thus, leaving one’s reputation beyond the grave in the hands of others.