I spent little time online the past week following the unexpected passing of my sister Annette exactly seven days ago. The reaction is strange, seeing how much Facebook, texting, and other connected activities and services enriched and changed her life during the last six months or so she walked this Earth. I was clueless.

Last year, I added Annette to my cellular account; she used Nokia Lumia Icon Windows Phone to start. This opened a new world of connection to children, other relatives, and friends by texting. In November, when switching the family to T-Mobile from Verizon and upgrading to Nexus 6P, I sent her my Nexus 6. Soon after, her fraternal twin, Nanette, helped set up Facebook. Annette’s first post was Nov. 22, 2015—a family photo with our brother-in-law Michael Bellerieve, before his death from cancer. 🙁 

I paid little attention to my sister’s posts, seeing platitudes that meant little to me but more because I loathe Facebook and use the thang infrequently—despite being on the service for 10 years. The interface is among the most overly-complex and user-unfriendly ever created. Reason: If you examine features, Facebook benefits first and subscribers last. That’s what you get from a free service around which the provider profits from your activities, interactions, and personal information.

But for my 54 year-old sister, who like many middle-aged Americans didn’t use a computer, the smartphone and supporting cloud apps and services opened unimaginable pathways to connecting with loved ones and rediscovering classmates and other friends. For all the things I hate about Facebook, the social network nevertheless provides private and public spaces where people can gather and communicate casually or intimately.

Annette’s habit was to check Facebook soon as she awoke in the morning. Last Monday, there was no activity on the service, or any other; not since Mother’s Day, when she talked with my nieces, nephew, and her grandkids. She passed—peacefully, presumably—in her sleep.

I am rethinking Facebook on account of my sister—because of the greater relationship I could have had with her from afar; how much she benefitted from the service; and seeing how often my other family members go there to interact. I’ll never love Facebook. Never. But I do love the people using it.

Photo Credit: Mambembe Arts & Crafts

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