Monthly Archives: July 2014

Where Do We Go When We Die On Social Media?

RIP GravesiteHappy Birthday to You. Happy Birthday Dear (your name). Happy Birthday to You. Keep singing in your head and now pretend that you are dead for a moment. How old are you? How old are you? Even though you have died, don’t worry, social media will keep celebrating with your friends and family.

If you are on Facebook, it’s likely that you have been notified about an upcoming birthday from a dead friend. Unfortunately, I’ve received too many of these lately.

Baby Footprint It was only about five or six years ago that a newborn’s first footprints were recorded in ink at the hospital; today our first footprints are recorded in digital. As soon as babies take their first breaths and from cradle to grave an entire life of milestones will be shared on social media, which is a ton of fun, but what happens when it ends?

My wife Stacey and I hope we don’t leave too many unanswered questions for our family when we die and recently formalized an Advanced Directive, a legal document that expresses our end of life health care wishes. After we completed the paperwork I thought about a few more loose ends: event notices from Facebook, my legacy on social media sites and the ability for others to say nasty things about me after I’m gone like, “He thought he was so funny. We only laughed at Ron because we felt sorry for him.”

My concerns may be exaggerated but I believe there is a better balance between blowing out virtual candles for dead people and all the good that social media does to promote health and unite us in illness and death.

During hospital stays, the password-protected sites CarePages and CaringBridge  serve as therapeutic conduits to update family and friends on posts that range from a happy birth announcement to a terminal illness. On another social media platform NPR reporter Scott Simon shared his love for his dying mother on Twitter.

Paul Bisceglio featured the well-known Simon in a poignant article in the Atlantic, How Social Media is Changing The Way We Approach Death. He spoke with people who believe that social media may distract the caregiver from the patient, but mostly how social media can lend a compassionate hand. Even though his mom passed, Simon’s tweets still resonate.

As sentimental as the Scott Simon account was,  Laurie Penny, contributing editor  wrote Selfies at Funerals and memorial hashtags: mourning in the digital age , “In recent weeks and months, social media has been unremittingly macabre….. Most recently, 25-year-old journalist and socialite Peaches Geldof was found dead in her home and…. everyone from Boy George to the Irish prime minister tweeted their condolences…..”

Stephanie Buck from Mashable published, How 1 Billion People Are Coping With Death and Facebook, and concludes that as of 2012, 30 million people who maintained Facebook accounts have died. She freaked me out a little and inspired me to dig a little more on my own. Here is where you begin on Facebook and this is what you’ll see if you want to remove a deceased friend or family member.

Screen Shot 2014-06-29 at 6.58.38 PMOn Twitter, the company’s policy asks that a representative acting on behalf of the estate or a verified family member manage this process. The most helpful site I found is dedicated to grieving and dealing with death, Modern LossModern Loss. It posted this comprehensive listing with instructions required by Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram and other social media platforms.

These decisions are very personal and there is no right answer and your position may evolve like mine has. I’ve moved toward acceptance because social media’s influence will continue to flourish with most of it for the greater good. When I saw the respectful comments on my deceased friend’s Facebook wall recently, I mustered the courage to write a condolence and took it a step further to pay my respects digitally on the funeral home’s community web site.

When you die you’ll definitely leave some sort of digital footprint, but how big do you want it to be and how much hassle do you want your family to endure? I’m still leaning toward sharing my passwords with my survivors so they don’t have to file a bunch of requests and hopefully remember more of the real me rather than the digital me.

The opinions expressed in this blog are my own. My Twitter handle is Ronald Petrovich

picture of Ron Petrovich

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Disco Riot Anniversary: A Social Media Perspective

Screen Shot 2014-07-03 at 4.12.25 PMHe wobbled, stared at me with glassy eyes and mumbled, ” Wow man, I’ve never pissed on second base.” Next he fumbled with his zipper then sprayed his impulse all over his pants, shoes and eventually the intended target. In baseball terms he stole second and in stoner lingo he scored and fried. I still smile when I think of that unknown, fellow rioter on the baseball field from an infamous promotional campaign that is now part of Rock ‘n’ Roll, baseball and Chicago media lore, Disco Demolition.

35 years ago this week, two high school friends, Ralph, Mark and I made a last minute decision while listening to our favorite Rock Radio station to drive 40 minutes from Northwest Indiana to Disco Demolition Night at Comiskey Park, the former home of the Chicago White Sox. Admission to the double header between the Sox and Detroit Tigers was 98 cents (the radio station promoting the event was WLUP, The Loop FM 98) and a 45 rpm disco record, which looked like an oversized CD with a hole in the middle. Screen Shot 2014-07-07 at 12.37.35 PM

WLUP disc jockey Steve Dahl had recently been fired from a rival station after it converted to disco music programming. This promotion carried out his revenge and our disdain for the genre. In between the games, Dahl, dressed in an anti-disco military uniform strutted to a dumpster in center field and fired up 59,000 fans with “Disco Sucks” chants. When he reached his destruction destination, he blew up thousands of records and ignited the mayhem. A giant plume of white smoke and gunpowder smell blended with the blue cloud of burning weed that had been wafting before the first pitch was even thrown. Seconds after that explosion, I heard, “Let’s Go,” and we were off. From center field, our thundering herd flew over seats, sprinted down ramps and hurdled retention walls until we landed on the grass near first base. Our trio slowly wandered and gazed up toward the empty seats marked by Disco Sucks banners while dozens of other knuckleheads set fires throughout the field. For at least a half-hour, everyone disregarded the pleas, “Holy Cow, please get off the field,” from famous announcer Harry Caray. We savored every second of our major league debut until tactical police units arrived on horseback with billy clubs.

It would have been cool to record all that action like we do today with our mobile devices even though I hold onto vivid memories of the sights, sounds, smells and feel of the entire stadium rumbling during the initial rush, which is a great thing. I embrace social media and I’m uncertain what kind of thing this is, but I believe that if Disco Demolition was promoted today, it would not spontaneously combust because of the medium’s ability to spread news so quickly. An audience much bigger than fans of Steve Dahl would control or crash the party for five reasons:

  1. Twitter would be trending with #discodemolition #discosucks and #disco prior to the event
  2. Instagram would be rolling for days with selfies of kids wearing Disco Sucks T-Shirts
  3. Vine and YouTube would be filled with videos of teens destroying disco records
  4. Facebook pages of WLUP RadioThe White Sox would be smothered in disco-hating rants
  5. Organizers would react to the social media conversation and take preventive steps and bring in extra security 

Disco Demolition

Back then, we didn’t take a lot of pictures of ourselves. Now, we watch old footage on YouTube and recall this anniversary through our memories of the sights, sounds and smells that connect a bygone media era to today’s social media. There could even be a lesson as we chronicle so many moments on social media. Before, during or after that selfie, think about pausing for a moment and engaging all of your senses to remember and interpret; not knowing it at the time, this worked for me at Disco Demolition and just might help make your milestones more memorable.

With Disco Demolition, Steve Dahl became a media icon because he was an outrageous visionary who understood the power of being himself. Today, he’s active on social media, has his own network with podcasts and is just as real as he was in 1979.

The opinions expressed in this blog are my own. My Twitter handle is Ronald Petrovich and the days of hating disco are way behind me even though I still fear dancing. 

picture of Ron Petrovich

picture of Ron