Facebook from Beyond the Grave

Tweets from dead people are a thing that happens. Well, retweets anyway. I noticed this trend when Leonard Nimoy passed away last week.  A lot of people retweeted his last few tweets. Some of these folks included the likes of George Takei, so the recirculation of a dead person’s final words by a longtime close friend seemed legit. Also, Nimoy said some pretty awesome stuff in 140 characters or less. Today I’m seeing a lot of Terry Pratchett’s retweets and honestly, I don’t know what to think. Pratchett certainly was a well respected fantasy writer, but his old tweets are really nothing special. I guess I just wasn’t as invested in his short fiction. (Hmmm…too soon?) Seriously though, RIP Terry Pratchett.

Actually, I just discovered Pratchett was A) British and B) knighted by the freaking queen of England. Good for him. There’s an interesting trend: SF personalities being knighted by royalty. Can we lobby to get Nimoy knighted posthumously? I personally love that Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan are also knights. They’re not getting any younger either. (I need to shut up with that kind of morbid talk.) Watching them on film from decades ago keeps them young forever. Their social media accounts keep their words alive as well. Nimoy’s last tweet was actually very apropos: “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory.” Well said. RIP Mr. Spock.

Our social media continues to exist after our deaths. Since celebrities are popular, it’s no surprise that their posts gain a little extra traction for a while after they pass. What’s disturbing to me is what happens to the social media accounts of the non-famous. They act as sort of an electronic shrine. A friend of mine died last year quite tragically and at a young age. His Facebook page is still active. There were several posts to his page in the days after his passing where people wished him peace and said they missed him. Bizarrely, two months later, on what would have been his birthday, people who apparently didn’t know he had died were sending him inappropriately cheerful birthday greetings. Clearly, these friends’ only interactions with him were once a year when Facebook’s automated birthday reminder popped up. If you and I are friends (on Facebook or IRL) but I have never acknowledged your birthday, it is because I have this atrocious feature turned off. I have my birthday hidden as well so you can’t wish me another year of life that way either. If our friendship is based on your wishing me happy birthday via Facebook once a year, well…”friend”… I’ve got some news for you about what friendship means.

There are some things social media is not designed to handle and death is one of them. What happens to the accounts of people that have died? Do they just stay forever like a tombstone? I imagine that tech savvy family members deactivate their accounts, but if they don’t have any family on social media or they don’t have any family, then what? I really don’t know. I guess they disappear forever when the host company goes out of business. It’s something I wonder about at times when I am feeling my mortality especially acutely. I try to make my blogs funny and entertaining, but I’ve clearly strayed down a depressing rabbit hole today. Sorry everyone.

In summation, the sun is shining and the birds are singing. Let’s go outside and celebrate being alive. Without posting a status update about it to social media.