Visiting a Dead Friend’s Facebook Profile
A poignant and eerie feeling
He was a good man. Only 26 years old. A jovial guy with a genial smile and amicable demeanor. Many liked his light-hearted speeches peppered with humor, in Toastmasters meetings and speech contests. He won contests and he won hearts.
But he was not a very outgoing person. He was ambitious, but not boisterous. He was cheerful but not madly optimistic. He was fun to talk to.
I only knew him for a year or so but that was enough to have some meaningful conversations with him and to appreciate how genuine he was. I never met anyone from his family nor did I visit his house. He came to my house once and we had a nice house party.
He relished reading and had a philosophical bent of mind. He enjoyed discussing the books he liked. On more than one occasion, in his speeches, he read out from a book he was currently reading.
All these thoughts came rushing to me, in no particular order, when I visited his Facebook profile today. At the top, just below his photo was a panel with the following written:
We hope that people who love [Friend’s name] will find comfort in visiting his profile to remember and celebrate his life.
The timeline in the right panel has been replaced by a small panel titled “Tributes”. Alas, there were no tributes present. To reduce the emptiness in that panel, I wanted to write one, but couldn’t find any option to do so. I clicked on a “Go To Timeline” button to visit my friend’s Facebook activities. It felt like clicking that button took me back into the past. Visiting his timeline was like stepping into his room, scrolling through it felt like looking around his room. I came across his articles and his views on various topics; reading it felt like he was speaking to me again.
Why did I visit his profile today, a couple of years after his death? A Facebook memory notification showed his name among other friends' names. The memory was a group photograph with him standing somewhere at the center, looking into the camera with his warm smile. I decided to visit his profile after looking at that photograph. Visiting his profile felt like getting in touch with him in some way. A part of him still lives on through his photos and his writings.
How long should he live this way in our lives?
Should we hold on to him or forget about him and move on?
I’m sure the rest of the world, including his friends and girlfriend, would have moved on or would soon do so. But he was the only son of his parents, and if they find some solace by accessing him in some form through his Facebook profile, then I guess it is worth keeping him a little longer in this manner.
Is this the kind of immortality that each one of us will eventually attain? We will live forever in some static digital form in one corner of a data server in some corner of the planet. Those who might cherish our existence in this form will also soon be immortalized in this way.