Death and Social Media: Facebook Friends For Life

Anders Nilsen. Big Questions.

It’s been said too many times that social media is changing our relationships and degrading our ability to genuinely connect with others, but all those “superficial” interactions take on a unique significance when social media meets death. In a totally bizarre way, social media enables us to be friends with dead people.

And for that, I’m very grateful. Continue reading

Person vs. Lying Robot: A Lesson In Ethics

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I’ve learned a lot this semester while teaching my first class in Medical and Healthcare Ethics. We’ve covered a range of topics that I hope to eventually make videos and write posts about, but one insight in particular has repeatedly been made apparent to me in my personal life: It’s inappropriate to respond to everything in the same way. Doing so not only increases your likelihood of responding to someone or some situation in the wrong way. It may also mean that there are some deeper things going on that are worth thinking about. For your own sake as well as everyone else’s. Continue reading

The Value of a Few Choice Words

letter writingYou know that great feeling when you are able to vent and finally get things off of your chest? Well I wrote a number of emails this week that were intended to be “strictly business,” but before I knew it that whole personal-professional line was blurred again and I ended up telling a few of my higher-ups what I really thought of them. Continue reading

On Learning to Listen and Social Media Whores


Figuring out how to cope with a terminal illness and deal with death has been the most present theme for me over the past week. My students and I spent a couple of days discussing these topics in our Medical and Healthcare Ethics class. After a colleague  mentioned in passing that his health was “not that great,” we spoke for nearly two hours over coffee about finding purpose in doing graduate work when you are faced with an unexpected and drastically shortened timeline. And, although this is a frequent occurrence, one of my closest friends and I talked even more than usual about what it means to live after a loved one has died. All of these conversations were punctuated by seemingly serendipitous finds of related videos and songs over a number of days.  It was one of those times when one’s attention is primed to pick up on such things more frequently and with greater ease. It seemed natural, then, to assume that I would write my reflections this week on such a weighty, important, and pressing question: How do we live when we really know that we are going to die?

But I’m not going to. At least not right now.

Maybe it was because I really do want to write about this question and these experiences, and perhaps also because I appreciate the gravity that can surround their consideration, that I found myself feeling quite adverse to the idea of doing so. From my own experience, I know that it is inappropriate (if not downright offensive) to talk to people about what they might be going through and how they should handle their feelings. In those situations, the most important thing one can do is just be present, sit with the experience, and listen. So I had a weird little moment when I thought, “Ugh. I don’t want to come off as that person.” And I totally blame Twitter and Facebook for my hesitation to write. Continue reading

The Most Desirable Pain

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Like small, delicate, little bubble worlds unto ourselves we emerge, take shape, grow, travel, and move. And then we meet others, at a particular moment for (what we may not always realize is) an indeterminate amount of time. Sometimes we touch. We cling. We gather and crowd. Then other times we separate. Eventually, at some point, one or both or all move away, go away, disappear. There are others, of course. Always others. But there was also that one. Those few. Those others before. And for that time, while we were, we were close. Extraordinarily close. Continue reading

The Golden Rule Done Better


It’s bad advice to say, “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”

Well, perhaps it’s not terrible advice, but I think we can do better by adopting the following phrase as a guide for our actions: Treat others the way they want to be treated. It’s called the Platinum Rule. Continue reading

To Love Others (Without Them Knowing It)


Unrequited love is a common theme of tortured souls, those who wish for nothing more than to be loved back by their beloved. In many stories, this type of love is a kind of tragedy for we often assume that love is (and perhaps should be) realized only in particular ways. But I’ve recently been thinking differently, and I’ve found something quite poignant about a certain kind of love that is not only unreciprocated but also unknown to those who are loved.

In the past eight months I developed a new kind of love for two boys who are not my own. They live a number of hours away from me. I never met them and I likely never will. One is ten years old. The other is eight. I was dating their father. Continue reading