Facebook and Social Media Influencers, let the bereaved grieve – Viola Okolie

Facebook and Social Media Influencers, let the bereaved grieve – Viola Okolie



About seven or eight years ago, I did something I was not totally proud of on Facebook. 



I was shopping at the only Shoprite in Abuja then, the one at Apo; when someone stopped me with a shriek and called my name. I didn’t know who she was, but she knew me as the local Facebook “celebrity” I was then. She introduced herself and mentioned some of my posts. Then we laughed at how crackhead I could be with my opinions, etc. 



I made a mental note of her name and as soon as I got home; I gave her a shout out on Facebook. 



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A friend read the update and called me immediately. Apparently she knew both the lady and her husband. They were close family friends. Now this friend was (still is) one of my closest friends. We lived in the same estate at the time. Also, she was from the same geopolitical zone as the Facebook friend I had met earlier in the day. So we just spoke about how it was a small world, etc. etc. and rested the case; until my friend called me back two days later. 



“Viola”, she started and then continued in pidgin which is what we generally use to flow. “I no know how I wan take talk wetin I wan tell you now. E heavy for mouth small”.



“Go ahead, Foxy”, I urged her; thinking it was one of the numerous burdens we often carried for each other at that point in time. 



She sighed heavily and reminded me about the post I had made a couple of days back. The one about the Facebook friend I met at Shoprite? Well apparently, this friend had slumped a day after and was rushed to the hospital in a coma. She had just passed on and the husband who was also a Facebook friend was really shaken. Who wouldn’t be. 



While his Facebook wall was silent about his wife’s passing; he had reached out to my friend and her family for comfort; while they both struggled to come to terms with what had just happened, and still hope against hope for a miracle. 



Well, what did I do?



I was very foolish then. 



I took to my Facebook wall to write a long post; about someone who had been a relative stranger to me just a couple of days earlier. I waxed lyrical about life, tried to sound intelligent with my philosophical musings. In fact, I was even misyarning like as if myself and the late lady were tightest of pallies. 



Facebook and Social Media Influencers, let the bereaved grieve - Viola Okolie





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Because of my way with words, the post soon had a lot of likes. I was being consoled and condoled like I was the bereaved. Remember once again that this person was a relative stranger until that chance encounter at Shoprite. 



Anyway, while I was huffing and puffing and inflating myself with so much air over a matter that; to all interests and purposes should only concern me by the fact that, “the bell tolls for us all”; someone suddenly jumped on my post and started frantically declaring that the lady was not dead; just in a coma. 



She was begging me to pull down my post. It was frantic. She was all over the threads and “RIP” comments; insisting the lady just had a temporary faint and was currently responding to treatment. 



Of course, in typical Facebook yeyebrity style, I went after her. Who was she and why was she disputing my almighty knowledge about the status of this two-day old “intimate” friend that I just lost? And then I got a Facebook message notification. 



Apparently, the late lady’s parents and immediate family had not yet been intimated of her death. My post – in typical Facebook Oni Yeye fashion – tagged her. I wasn’t the only one. A lot of us town criers had rushed to announce the death on social media, etc; while the family and friends were still struggling to find a way to break the news in a palatable manner to her parents. 




Facebook and Social Media Influencers, let the bereaved grieve - Viola Okolie



I quickly pulled down my post. 



And felt so foolish, oh God, how foolish did I feel?



A lot has happened since then. But nothing on social media has impacted me like the lesson I learnt from that encounter. Small wonder I do not share or make “RIP” updates? It is not in my place to do that. 




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In the past couple of days, a lot has happened So many people have suddenly transited. I guess the most shocking was the celebrity wife of a celebrity pastor. Nothing shocked people more than how swift her passing was, especially considering her age. 



However, I see that a lot of us still do not understand that in so many instances; you allow a family grieve. Then you pass on the message of a loss in the best way they think possible to the public. I have read and seen so many things including people releasing private chats they had with Ibidunni Ighodalo; that I had to make the sign of the cross severally and pray for God not to give me the kind of friends that will rush to social media to share private messages as soon as I transit. 



Ibidun Ighodalo: I did not know you but I join in mourning your beautiful life - Peju Akande




Please my people, I notice that a lot of us do not share happy events like weddings and childbirth; at least until the couple or new parent(s) have done so themselves or given us the go ahead to do so. This is for a joyful event o. Why then do we spread with so much glee, bad news? Why?



There have been instances when parents and family members have heard of the demise of their loved ones from social media; or WhatsApp status updates; most times from people whom they never even knew were connected that much to their loved one. Most appalling, in a large percentage of cases, the emergency obituary publishers include photographs; some too gory for words. 



All in the rush to be the first to break unbroken news. 



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Listen, as someone who has been so clueless, pause and ask yourself one simple question. One thing that is sure for us humans in this life, is that we will die. We may never hammer. We may never get to build that mansion. In fact, we may never own a private jet, but we will all die. 



When you do pass on, how comfortable do you think your family would be reading intimate details of your life; especially from social medias olofofos, even as they struggle to come to terms with their loss? They are not even allowed the courtesy of grieving without being under a huge searchlight?



Come on people, tone it down. Ibidunni was not married to a nitwit and from all indications; he knew and approved of all her pet projects. He definitely doesn’t need someone publishing private chats with her to decide whether he wants to continue with her projects or not. The intrusion on this family’s personal grieving space is too raw. 




Let us tone it all down a bit. 






Let the family grieve. Then let them speak before we start speaking (and overdoing it); and releasing private messages and videos, etc. 



Thank you.

About The Author

Osigweh Lilian Oluchi is a graduate of the University of Lagos where she obtained a B.A (Hons) in English, Masters in Public and International affairs (MPIA). Currently works with 1stnews as a Database Manager / Writer. [email protected]

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