My name is Sydney Yeager. I am a graduate student studying cultural anthropology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX. The following study is my (Sydney Yeager’s) dissertation fieldwork research.
Facebook Timelines are created by users and filled with brief narratives, images, and videos that collectively share the story of the user’s life. When Facebook users die, their existing Facebook accounts live on, and their Timelines may be converted into digital memorials permanently frozen in time or become spontaneous shrines where friends and family—anyone who has already been approved as a Facebook friend—can continue to post memories and messages to the deceased.
What happens to a person’s Facebook account after she dies? Why do people continue to leave messages on the Facebook walls for their loved ones long after they are dead? Do the responses on Facebook left by friends and family offer comfort to people grieving the loss of someone close to them? Are they any downsides to talking about death on Facebook?
These are the central questions of my Ph.D. dissertation research. I am exploring the how death and grief are dealt with on Facebook. I am investigating how people talk about death, remember the dead, and talk to the dead on Facebook. As a cultural anthropologist, I am interested in what people believe, how people behave, and what meaning they give their words and actions.
Data produced for this project will include an online questionnaire, semi-structured interviews, and analysis of Facebook messages, images, and videos which related grief. The data collected will be analyzed and utilized in writing my Ph.D. dissertation. The results of this research will be presented at academic conferences, in academic publications, and to the general public through here on this blog and my professional site and in public talks.
If you are interested in participating in this study, please take this survey to get started!