Tuesday, May 18, 2010

And to you, I leave...My Facebook page??


Normally I prefer not to touch on anything too serious (most of my inner thoughts lean toward the fanciful or the frivolous anyway- thank God), but this particular topic has been on my mind for quite some time. Over the past six months, I have had three Facebook friends (young, healthy, vibrant individuals) pass away unexpectedly under tragic circumstances. I have had other Facebook friends lose parents, grandparents, siblings, spouses, unborn children and pets since joining Facebook way back when. They are my friends in real life too but more often than not, I only find out this very serious and very personal news via Facebook.

I have grown accustomed to finding out about engagements, marriages and breakups via Facebook. I talk to 80% of my friends solely via Facebook. The only photographic evidence of my life is on Facebook and I am not ashamed to admit, I rarely go a day without logging in at least once. Despite all that I am still not used to or ok with the concept of posthumous Facebooking.

It gives me a eerie feeling in my stomach looking at the page of someone who is no longer with us. If our Facebook page is the virtual version of ourselves, should it be allowed to exist without the flesh and blood person who created it in their image?? I did a little research and apparently Facebook DOES have a policy on this according to Time magazine (this is an old article and GOD knows that Facebook could have changed their policy 20 times by now). However, as of six months ago, this was their stance:

"Per our policy for deceased users, we have memorialized this person's account. This removes certain more sensitive information and sets privacy so that only confirmed friends can see the profile or find the person in search. The Wall remains so that friends and family can leave posts in remembrance."

WOW. As much as I love posting kind words on someone's wall- when they get a new job, or have a baby, or even just when I find their status update amusing- I simply would not be able to post something on someone's wall to express my feelings about their death. To me, Facebook post trivializes the most personal, serious and solemn thoughts someone can have. Everyone understands how inappropriate it is for a man to dump his girlfriend of 3 years via text, but yet somehow Facebooking has become an acceptable method for offering condolensces. I know I'm not the only one who feels this way. Most articles on this topic quote relatives who are enraged that they can't take down their relatives profiles or those who rejoice the ability to remember their loved one everytime they look at their profile and read the anecdotes that friends have left on their walls.

I fall into the former camp (when I die please please delete my profile!) but I suppose this is the future of grieving whether I am on board or not. I can't explain why I feel this way...maybe I'm just not good at grieving to begin with and prefer to take the time to collect my thoughts and put them in writing (REAL writing) rather than rattling off the first sentence that comes to my mind on my keyboard... Maybe I'd just prefer to keep my most serious and personal thoughts between myself and the person I'm addressing them too...Maybe I'm just right and death (like a breakup) is NOT something you can acknowldege virtually.

I'd love to know what others think...Newsweek wrote an amazing article on this topic and I'll leave you with just one quote that pretty much sums up the whole phenomenon:

"All of which raises tantalizing questions: the average Facebook user has aged to 33 years old. In two generations, will the pages of the dead outnumber the living? Will our unchurched children be content to memorialize us with a quip on a "wall"? Something is gained, but what is lost in this evolution from corporeal grief (the rending of garments) to grief tagged with a virtual rose?"