I saw a dead man on LinkedIn today.
He was an acquaintance. A hard-working family man who passed unexpectedly.
I was killing time on the train when I noticed him, somewhere between browsing a feed and marking notifications as “read”. My trivial time-killer was disrupted by a profile that outlived the man portrayed within it.
What happens to social media profiles when we die?
I suppose they become snapshots of our lives. Fossils of the life we projected while still living it.
For some, profiles convert to memorials for grieving loved ones. For others, they retire quietly into the world-wide-web, joining other bits and bytes that have been quietly forgotten with the passing of time.
LinkedIn offers a particularly dramatic backdrop to this morbid find, cluttered with its lists of accomplishments and professional ambitions. It’s an archive of our careers, but it also reveals future hopes and dreams. The profile transmits both, “Here is what I’ve done” and “here is what I hope to do”.
Yet this man will never add another promotion to his resume. Colleagues will never again endorse his skills or write glowing recommendations.
Scrolling to the bottom of a page that will never have anything added to it, I ask, “did this man lead a fulfilling life?”
Or is his profile a long list of regrets and wasted time?
Did he take enough risks? Did he take too many?
What if he could read through his profile here with me now? Would he laugh at what used to wake him with worry? Would he shed tears over the missed good-night kisses from his children?
Our accomplishments will fade. Our names dissolve like the bits and bytes that once populated our profiles.
I suspect that our biggest regrets won’t be the ceilings in our professional lives, but rather, the missed opportunities to love well.
We are more than our jobs, our businesses, our education.
We are more than the professional profiles we leave behind. The treasured moments in life happen behind the scenes, in quiet moments, often without words.
They are much too valuable to publish with fleeting technology and they will long outlive what we’ve tried so hard to make public.