The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
The Death Of Friends On Social Media
The topic of death is not one that I avoid at all. There are several published confessions, from the death of celebrities (Legends in Celebrity Death, Robin Williams, and Leonard Nimoy) to my own two very best friends who passed away. Death is something that all of us will face eventually. It is a sad truth and as we get older, our loved ones, our friends, and people we know or knew are dying. Whether it is from natural causes, cancer, drug overdose, homicide, or suicide, everyone we know is going to die, including ourselves.
As we built up a presence on social media, and added our friends so that we could “keep in touch”, socialize, or just keep up to date with their lives, it is only a fact of life that they too, will die. Eventually, I will have to consider the fact that at some point in time, all my friends are dead. The reality is that as I am getting older, I have noticed that some of my Facebook friends have not posted in years. This is not because they are inactive or abandoned their Facebook accounts. It is actually because they are dead. They died and their Facebook account is still active as if they should still be checking their walls. Some are dead due to cancer and most others died from another disease or a drug overdose.
As much as we, their friends, want to memorialize their Facebook walls, and my own mother tends to post every few months on my deceased best friend’s wall, as she raised him like he was her son too. It is a sad reminder that as much as we do hope they are reading their social media profiles up in Heaven or wherever their spirits are, the reality is, we post on their walls to help our own coping. Some of us cannot fathom the idea of posting on our dead friends walls, while others will post on their wall everyday. It is a nice thought and nice to think about them everyday, and if that helps you, than by all means, continue doing you. It is really only for you if this is a coping mechanism, but you must also accept the reality that this wall is no longer filled by someone who is checking it.
A social media profile is a lot like a phone number: When is a good grace period to not feel guilty for removing it? Or should you remove it at all? Do you remove their Facebook profile or social media profile? Does removing you mean you will no longer be their friend? Of course, Facebook has created that illusion that in order for us to all be friends, we have to be “connected through Facebook”, but truly, as it was before, and still is, you can have friends that you are not connected with through a social media channel. If you talk to them and see them often, but they never got involved in social media, does that mean you aren’t friends? Of course not.
If you do choose to remove the deceased friend, they can never and will never be able to add you back. As for a phone number, it is said that the average wait time before removing them is 3 to 6 months. Some of us might even try calling or texting those numbers in hopes that someone will pick up, but the sad reality is, they are gone and no one is going to pick up. I even had a friend call me the day after he died, as we were supposed to make plans to hang out and go bowling, so it was only normal for him to try and reach me, but I was headed to work that morning, and missed his call. I did attempt to call back with no answer, but his family swears by it that they never made any attempts to notify his friends through his phone or call them. I found out about his death from his girlfriend when I called her to see if everything was okay because I had the feeling that something was very wrong. So this call from him, the day after his death, is still unexplained.
As we get older, we must face the reality that people die everyday and it eventually hits close to home where the social media profile of the person who passed away is now a memorial, though many social media networks will only memorialize with enough proof, and it is not always that people will even bother, as to leave the social media account intact and as is.
I believe out of the 500+ contacts I have, there are at least 5 to 10 people who are no longer alive that are associated with my Facebook account. As far as my other social media networks, they are less personal to me, so I do not exactly know if there are or how many people are dead. It is just interesting to note that it really changes nothing in our lives, as it would be like finding out they passed away from friends, and that would be it.
Social media gives us a more direct connection to our friends and deceased friends and while we may post on their walls, it remains just as a way for us to communicate with a page created by them. I have never had any of these friends come back or somehow gain access to the Internet in the afterlife. It seems once dead, that is it.
It is said that the number of dead people are overtaking the number of live people on social media, which makes sense, because as more people are signing up for social media accounts, death is still happening everyday. There will be a time where you may be that friend who is dead and your social media profile will live on for as long as social media remains.
There may even be that rare opportunity, in the future, where truly, all of your friends will be dead on social media, and you are the only one, as the “older generation” is becoming yours and my generation. Eventually, there will be entire generations of dead people on social media, with no survivors or anyone who knows these groups of dead people. It will be a social media graveyard. The Digital Deceased. The Social Media Dead.
Influence for this confession from the book, All My Friends Are Dead, and All My Friends Are Still Dead