DEAR HARRIETTE: A woman I knew professionally and have been peripherally connected to over the years died suddenly. She leaves behind several children and plenty of friends. I feel horrible about it. Though we were not close, I am sad. Part of this may be the shock of a woman under 50 dying of unknown causes. It definitely makes me question my own life expectancy. But also, I realize how I “know” more people through social media than through actually being in touch. I don’t know that this woman would have ever been my actual friend, but I do think that I rely on the internet and texting more than I should. I have plenty of true friends whose voices I haven’t heard for years. We stay connected electronically. -- Something's Wrong With This Picture, Atlanta
DEAR SOMETHING’S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE: Death, even that of someone you don’t know well (or at all), can trigger all kinds of emotions. The permanence of loss can hit hard. Death has a way of inspiring people to think about their own lives and to assess if they are making the wisest choices.
In the case of this woman’s untimely passing, clearly it has affected you deeply. I recommend sitting with the thoughts that have come up for you and considering how you might adjust your ways of communicating with others moving forward to make for more meaningful engagement. Schedule appointments to be face-to-face with people you care about. Go on social media fasts, where you avoid all virtual engagement. Choose to see someone you care about in person at least once a month. These measures and more can help you to become more immediately connected to people themselves, not their avatars or social media handles.