Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Body is Gone, but the Facebook Profile Remains

I don't really know where else to express this thought, or how I'm feeling. I suppose the internet is a suiting place considering the subject matter.

I've twice been confronted with this oddity: someone dies but their Facebook profile remains. It first happened with my dear friend Jason, and again recently with someone I only knew in passing.

With all loss, there is that horrible, aching hole. The sadness. The missing. I suppose this feeling is not new to humans, just to me. This feeling of, "You're gone but the things you did in life are still lingering." With any loss, people leave things behind that must be dealt with. Clothes to be given away or sold, effects to be distributed amongst friends and family.

But Facebook has brought something weird to the traditional process of loss.

On Facebook, I can visit my dead friends' profiles, look at pictures, and even write on their wall as if they might actually see what I wrote. Facebook gives me the facade of interaction, but I never get a response. Still, it soothes me to be able to tell my friend I miss him.

In the real world with tangible assets, you have the choice to get rid of things. Some people need to move on by dispensing with those items linked to strong memories or feelings. But you cannot get rid of Facebook. The pictures will remain forever. The profile will stay unless a friend or relative knows the password. And it seems that Facebook doesn't has a system for dealing with their dead users.

Perhaps this is a way to preserve human history. Perhaps no one will be lost to time this way. Still, periodically I go back to my friend's page and reminisce. Even today, it had me shedding tears. I don't want to ever forget Jason, but I'm not sure I want this heavy-heart anytime I start typing "J" on Facebook.