Inappropriate sharing, incomprehensible ramblings, uncalled-for hostility: yup, it's a blog.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

When Do You Let a Facebook Friend Go?

There are a lot of friends on Facebook who no longer exist.

I've de-friended people before, for a variety of reasons. I've been de-friended, too. The thing about social networks is that sometimes constant social interaction wears one down and makes one realize just how incompatible people can be. Not a big deal, really, until the network becomes sentient and wills itself into the real world.

The real world has a notable thing. Here in the real world, we deal with mortality. And so there are people in my Facebook newsfeed who are no longer de-friend-able. They're dead. Facebook is so long in the tooth that many of us have accumulated a body-count.

Not to be all Carrie Bradshaw about this next sentence (but please feel free to do a close-up on my Mac iBook as I type these next letters): When is it okay to de-friend de-lifed friends?

Without using names, out of respect for the dead, there are a few people over the years who had Facebook pages, and I friended, and suddenly the Facebook pages are more alive than the person(s). In one case, a span of 4 years has passed since the passing, and the person is much less active than his Facebook page.

Which isn't, I must add, a bad thing. The people I know, I want to know them forever. I just don't particularly like being reminded of their demise, over and over, randomly, whenever I try to check up on racist nephews or distraught neighbors. Facebook is a meditation on minutia, not a place to go and be reminded of mortality.

De-friending a dead friend seems like a savage thing. It's killing that person all over again. Not that the person minds, or knows, of course, but there it is: you click a button and suddenly that person is gone from your personal internet--and the internet is of course an extension of your neural network. An extension of your personal brain. Of your mind. Yourself.

Memories are something we hold in our heads. But interactions--comments left, likes 'liked', photos and intimate moments shared--are now a part of those memories. And when you de-friend, you lose a part of a friendship, and a section of memories, and there's no regaining it... unless wayback.com or the Feds can return it to you.

So an anniversary of a friend's death recently came up. A few people posted to his (or her!) page: "Miss you!" "Love you!" "Profound and long statement marking your passing!"

And I realized my Facebook page has a body-count. My existence has a body-count. In real life, I press on, and remember from time to time the people I've lost, and I choose when to remember. On Facebook, I'm told to recall this or that person.

In real life, I may get a scent of something, and remember a person I once loved who is now dead, and smells much differently.

In real life, I may touch a piece of fabric, recall a moment, and realize just how lost that moment is.

In real life, I may. Just may. I may, and my brain will wrinkle and neurons will fire, and I'll think of someone who is no longer there.

With Facebook? The dead appear again and again. Social networks. The internet in general. You're not allowed to release, and have the nice surprise of recollection. You sign on, and are confronted with mortality.

And no fabric-touching to give you some comfort.

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