We don’t often consider the ethics of telling our story. Mother’s Day email reminders opened my eyes to the challenges of storytelling in the digital age. Not long after my mom died in April last year, an email came from the local florist reminding me to send flowers. Mother’s Day was around the corner. There were also the pop-ups in my FaceBook feed from the candy companies and other retailers trying to cash in on this greeting card holiday. But there was no mother to send them to. She was gone.
What none of those companies could possibly have comprehended is how painful those reminders were. There was no malicious intent; nonetheless, these emails ripped open the scab of grief that was just a few weeks old. A friend who recently lost her mom was plunged into despair when FB sent her a memory, a picture of her mom. How could these retailers and FB know what pain that had inadvertently caused? After all those messages were generated by an algorithm.
The Story Share
When we turn over our pictures of family dinners, our stories of life and death to FB, Instagram and a whole host of other social media platforms, we forget that those personal moments are no longer our own. They become the property of the companies who created these platforms. And we forget that the other people in our pictures that we post may or may not be comfortable with that dinner photo showing up for millions to see. Read more about the complexities and ethical considerations of story sharing in the age of social media in this Huffington Post piece. We should all think more before we post about the unintended consequences.