Magazine article Information Today

Mourning Becomes Electrons

Magazine article Information Today

Mourning Becomes Electrons

Article excerpt

I upgraded my iPhone recently, so I scrolled through my contacts to make sure that I transferred my data from the sluggish, old iPhone 3GS to the shiny, new iPhone 4S. (Hello, Siri!)

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Like many of you, I've acquired scores of contacts over the years. And probably like you too, I spotted a few names that had me scratching my head and wondering, "Now, who the heck is this?"

There were also a few listings for way-in-the-past former coworkers. You really have to think twice about deleting any of those; someone might prove to be a valuable contact some day.

But what are the odds that any of these people can still be found at the same location, let alone using the same phone number and email address? But it doesn't hurt to keep the names on file. Today, it's quite easy to find somebody.

So I was spending quality time with my contacts list, merging duplicates, deleting those with outdated information, and correcting listings that I knew were inaccurate. And then, another issue came up.

At least six people on my contact list are no longer among the living. (And these are the ones I know about; there could be others since I'm only regularly in touch with a small subset of my contacts.) I considered two of those six to be close friends. I still miss them and could not bring myself to delete their contact information.

Keeping those contacts intact in my phone served as a kind of memorial, at least to my way of thinking. We all deal with death a little differently.

Professionally speaking, if you stop learning new things, you're dead in the water. Me? I'm spending lots of time in MEDLINE/PubMed these days, which is a resource that I've really never used much in my previous jobs. But now that I work with a group of psychologists and social workers (and these folks love their journal articles), I'm getting more comfortable with the databases and some of the bells and whistles that go along with them. And my admiration just keeps growing for the U.S. National Library of Medicine, which is now just down the road from me in my new office.

I work almost exclusively with mental/behavioral health literature. Some of it is so jargon-filled that MEGO (My Eyes Glaze Over). But a lot of it is interesting, and some of it is extremely interesting.

For example, I regularly see journal articles that discuss death and the internet in some capacity. I guess it should not be surprising that academics/shrinks are studying this phenomenon; online mourning is not new, and folks have been going to the web for emotional support for years now. The Pew Internet & American Life Project released a presentation about Online Grief Support Groups in November 2001 (www.pewinternet.org/ Presentations/2001/OnlineGrief-Support-Groups.aspx). These groups are still being studied.

"Surviving Grief: An Analysis of the Exchange of Hope in Online Grief Communities," R.M. Swartwood, P.M. Veach, J. Kuhne, H.K. Lee, K. Ji, Omega (Westport). 2011;63(2):161-81; www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/ 21842664.

      Themes in the messages
   suggested provision of more
   than "one-way" support; messages
   themes also included exchanging
   hope for the future by
   sharing one's own story, validating
   the grief experience,
   providing resources, and exchanging
   psychosocial support.

And the mental health community seems to have embraced online grieving as a self-help tool for the bereaved.

"Internet Message Boards for Pregnancy Loss: Who's On-Line and Why?" K.J. Gold, M. …

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