Social media for weddings, funerals and natural disasters

Wedding rings and facebook

The convenience of social media is making it one of the major communication channels for living in the modern world.

I am a self-confessed Facebook & Twitter addict, and although I have the excuse to use it for work reasons, I use it for personal reasons too. What occurred to me recently is how important and useful Facebook & Twitter have been for situations that you wouldn’t normally associate with social media, like weddings, funerals and natural disasters..

Facebook for weddings

I am not much of a traditionalist and my wedding was a prime example of this. Have you ever heard the saying “when you meet the one, you just know”? Well I had heard it but didn’t understand what that meant – until on April the 3rd 2009 I met the one and I just knew!

Due to the nature of our very short engagement we had to let people know, and quickly!  We only had space for 25 at the ceremony, who we emailed.

Then, for the other stages of the day (dinner, drinks etc.) we set up an event in Facebook and sent invitations to our guests.

Simple, easy and participatory. I understand that this is not everyone’s ideal wedding but for us it was perfect. We spent no time fussing over details. Our entire focus was about our growing excitement for the big day.

Of course the day after the wedding our friends had posted plenty of photos that we could coo over before we got the official ones from the photographer, which we were able to share with our friends on, you guessed it – Facebook.

Facebook for funerals

A few weeks back we had a tragedy in the family, my brother at 24 passed away suddenly. We all flew to Melbourne to be with him and to make arrangements. The funeral director went through the cursory services which included a notice in the births and deaths section in the paper. “Don’t worry”, my uncle told her, “we will post it in Facebook”.

In Facebook we announced his passing and kept people in the loop on developments on the date of the funeral. With all that was going on, we were so grateful that we had a single way to contact his 400 friends, extended family and colleagues in several countries, without having to call them all personally. People had a place where they could contact us, ask questions, share photos (that we would never have seen otherwise), express their grief and express their condolences.

To be honest I would never have thought about using Facebook for this reason but the whole family agreed that it made the worst possible situation we could imagine much less stressful than it would have been otherwise.

Even our aunties and uncles, who were originally anti-Facebook, signed up for accounts when they saw how easy it was to keep up with the happenings and see the thousands of photos shared.

Facebook for families

If, like me, you have lived in different countries or have international family or friends, Facebook means that you get to see frequent pictures of your nephews, nieces and friends’ children as they grow.

One of the downsides of international lifestyles is missing out on the little moments as babies and children grow… and yes, they grow fast! While there is nothing better than actually seeing the little tykes for real, Facebook gives us a window of daily interaction that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.

Facebook and Twitter for natural disasters

And now at this very moment, I find myself stranded in Frankfurt airport. Our flight to Dublin was cancelled yesterday due to heavy snow. And so we queued.

We queued for 11 hours yesterday, with very little communication except the rumours that came from snippets of conversations based on what people heard on the news, and what families in Ireland had called through to us.

The airport was open. The airport was closed. The airport was open. They are sending a bigger plane. There is no plane. Dublin is closed. No, Frankfurt is closed. The rumours were as relentless as the queues! No tickets available for 4 days so we wait.

It wasn’t until I realised that Dublin Airport was on Twitter that we found a source of information that actually came from the source. Then, a post on Facebook to this effect brought offers of accommodation and friendly faces, should we find ourselves still in Germany on Christmas day.

Although exhausting, this experience is only a minor inconvenience compared to the effects of other natural (and manmade) disasters that happen every year around the world. After the earthquakes in Christchurch earlier in this year, my friends in the area posted that they were safe. Likewise after a landslip in South America that killed several tourists, our friends posted that they weren’t the ones affected.

A new age of communication

While Facebook and Twitter will never replace real human contact, they certainly make connection so easy that it facilitates  maintaining relationships in a way that wasn’t possible before.

One concern that many people still come to me with is that they don’t want to share everything with everyone they know. Facebook has started to address that concern with the privacy settings they introduced a few months back. You now have the ability to decide who sees your comments, picture albums and personal information by managing the status you give each contact.

It is a new age of communication and for many people this comes with a cultural change, whether you embrace or resist the change what I promise you is this; there are times in your life that this level of communication or community can take the stress and uncertainty out of a situation or event. When you get to experience that in person, it is a powerful thing.

Have fun!

Serena “Social” Star

PS. This blog was written sitting in the luggage weighing machine at a check in counter and my battery is running out, hehe! Hopefully we will fly tonight… wish me luck!