There was an interesting article in the New York Times a couple days ago about Facebook and death. Entitled, ‘As Facebook Users Die, Ghosts Reach Out,’ the article talks about how it can be chilling and awkward when Facebook suggests you reconnect or write on the wall of someone who has passed away. While the piece focuses mostly on the older crowd and how sad it can be to see their face pop up, I tend to see it from another aspect.
I now, despite being in my twenties, have several friends and acquaintances who have passed away. Their Facebook accounts are not a ghostly reminder of someone who is no longer counted among the living. Their accounts have become a way to pay tribute to a person who has so deeply touched the lives of others; and a way to remind us that life is a fast and fleeting journey.
A family friend of mine passed away several months ago. The death was tragic and so many people were in pain when she died. Immediately, her Facebook wall became a place for friends to come and write their favorite memory or a note on how much she had touched their lives. Reading through them was better than any eulogy someone could have given at the funeral service. The messages were diverse and all of them sincere. Former co-workers, classmates, and siblings of friends wrote. Her siblings, extended family and people who had never met her but heard about her from others. With over 1,000 Facebook friends, she had obviously touched a lot of people’s lives while alive; and now through her wall she was touching them again.
Two months later, Facebook suggested I reconnect with her; the picture of her smiling face popping up on the right-hand side of my screen. Curious, I went to her page and there I found her family and friends hadn’t left it abandoned. They had continued to write her, to leave little notes, memories, song lyrics, reminders. For those close to her it became part of the grieving process.
And even now, months after she left this world, her Facebook account is still being bombarded with messages. I visit her wall frequently just to read what people are telling her and to remind myself of the impact one single person can have on those around her.
So while it can be a bit macabre to see Facebook’s suggestion that you connect with someone ‘from the grave’ the experience can really be an eye-opening one and one that brings peace and joy.