Why we can't stop sharing Sheryl Sandberg's Facebook post about grief
By 10pm last night, my Facebook feed was dominated by one post and one post alone. Photos of gurgling babies and heavily posed selfies were swept aside by the grief of Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg.
Sandberg took to the social network to share her feelings 30 days after suddenly losing her beloved husband and fellow technology entrepreneur Dave Goldberg, in an incredible post.
What followed were 1,733 words of pure unadulterated emotion. From admitting to sharing her bed with her mother while she cries herself to sleep, to her fear of the endless void ahead of her, Sandberg was doing what she does best: sharing.
Her bestselling book, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, was filled with the same breathtaking honesty – even her detractors couldn’t deny that.
I noticed that my friends who were quickest off the mark to share Sandberg’s outpouring were those who have experienced loss themselves – whether that was the loss of a parent or in the darkest case, the loss of a child.
When I was the technology correspondent for this paper, I visited Silicon Valley regularly and had the pleasure of a short interview with the very likeable Sandberg.
Walking through Palo Alto, meeting entrepreneurs working out of garages and huge campuses alike, there was an overriding sense of this being a unique place filled with people willing to share everything in order to push boundaries – for what they believed was the greater good.
From food, to information to property – the sharing economy, as it’s known, powers start-ups in this intense network of streets.
Think of the titans of the internet – Apple, Facebook, Google, Twitter – they all rely upon people, governments and artists being willing to share their data and creations with the world.
We all self-edit all the time. I rarely put out anything very personal on Twitter and have recently started withholding more and more information from my pals on Facebook. While sharing ideas and creations can be immensely powerful – once they are out there – they are hard to retrieve and own.
And yet, that’s what makes Sheryl Sandberg’s decision to let people into what it feels like to unexpectedly lose your husband, just 30 days after his shock death, so powerful. She knows first hand the power of sharing from her work at the helm of the world’s largest social network. She knows her experiences, however raw, can help others going through the same terrible situation - who may be less able to articulate their loss – and in turn she can help herself by allowing people to respond to her post.
For all the ills of the internet, its power to help and heal are rarely shouted about. Sandberg is practicing what she preaches and taking the medicine Facebook, her employer, prescribes.
I for one am grateful as I am sure many others are.
Having a powerful woman lay out her rawest emotions so nakedly is both shocking and brave. But it shouldn’t be. It’s just life.
I’ve written before about my desire for the lives we lead offline, to mirror those we lead online. We shouldn’t have two disparate personas that bear no relation to each other (yes internet trolls I’m looking at you). Too often people self-censor their true emotions online out of fear of a backlash. I am guilty of this myself.
Sandberg’s done the exact opposite with this beautiful post about losing the love of her life – and by taking that leap, she has found solace in the world both her and husband adored, the internet.