Death And Facebook

May 22, 2007 recently pointed me to an interesting blog post commenting on the persistence of the facebook profiles of the victims of the VT shootings. While I’m not particularly interested in the shooting itself (in fact, I find that the overall response to the VT shootings shows just how wussified this country has become), this is about facebook freezing the victims’ profiles, and about what happens when people who have an online presence die.

For me, death is just that–death. From the perspective of the deceased, existence itself ceases to be, and thus is uninteresting. What I find far more fascinating is the living, the people the deceased leaves behind to continue existing, and the effects upon thereof. It is interesting that we always refer to the memory of the dead. That’s probably because once a person is dead, all that’s left is the memory, of the person’s words, of the person’s deeds, etc. The effect we have upon others in life is what gives our lives meaning. Thus, preserving the memory of the dead, certainly one method by which the deceased had affected others, is almost like our way of saying that we would not allow the deceased’s life to have been lived in vain. In effect, our preservation of the memory of the formerly living gives that person’s life true meaning.

The perpetual existence of information online means the internet serves as a way for us to immortalize ourselves. I doubt many people have this in mind when they start blogs, or create profiles, or post their videos onto youtube. But intended or not, it is a consequence of an online presence. It isn’t anything new though. In the past, it was letters. How many times have we seen a book published based on some famous personage’s correspondences, or a book that has said correspondences edited for publishing? It’s just that online, we’re all famous. We’re locally famous, as opposed to the more common nationally, or globally famous e.g. that of celebrities. “Locally” in this sense means those who are emotionally close to us–not necessarily those who exhibit this trait physically. And the beautiful thing about the internet is that anyone can go from being a “local” interest, to a global one, dead or alive. Though the internet, we can truly glorify the deceased we held in the highest regard, extoll that person’s virtues in life, and unlike in past generations, we can point to the source material, ensuring little to no noise in the transfer of wisdom and knowledge. How to get the young ones to actually heed such advice is yet another debate–and one I do not dare touch at the moment.

For me, as one who lives in anonymity, I am satisfied that at my passing, even though those affected by me do not necessarily know my name or remember my face, their memory of my words means my life does have meaning. And what I say this, I’m not just talking about this blog.


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