[Episode 109] Today’s episode of the Social Work Podcast is about Death and Grief in the Digital Age. I spoke with Dr. Carla Sofka, professor of Social Work at Siena College. Dr. Sofka has been studying and writing about the intersection of technology and death and grief since the earliest days of the world wide web. Her edited 2012 text, Dying, Death and Grief in an Online Universe, looks at how changes in communication technology have revolutionized the field of thanatology.
In today’s episode we talk about the role of social media in how, why, where and when, who we grieve. She shares stories of people whose loved ones have died, only to find out that because of social media they are the last to know. Carla provides some digital literacy around death and grief in the digital age. She talks about social media posts as death notifications, about establishing digital advance directives and thinking about our digital dust.
She talks about STUG reactions which are Sudden Temporary Upsurges of Grief. I had never heard of a STUG reaction, but I actually had one during our conversation. You’ll hear me talk about college friend of mine who died several years ago and during the interview start to tear up as I recalled getting a Facebook notification that it was her birthday. We then talked about internet ghosts, memorial pages, memorial trolls, how and when people should respond to death notices online and what that means for the loved ones. She suggests that just as we provide sex education to kids, we should be providing death education. She also recommends including technology assessment in the standard biopsychosocialspiritual assessment. We ended our conversation talking about resources for mental health professionals who want to learn more.