Call me old-school, but I just don’t like this new thing where people write on dead people’s Facebook walls.
I encountered it again yesterday – an old acquaintance of mine had recently passed away, and his friends and family were tagging, updating and checking in like nobody’s business. True – I too was looking at his wall, so I suppose I’m not exactly innocent. But still – using a profile to inform faraway friends of a loved one of funeral arrangements is one thing; writing as if the person can respond is another.
So, I did a bit of reading and found that it’s becoming the new normal in the grieving process. Many say that being able to click that “post” button and see your message appear in exactly the same way it always had is very therapeutic. Writing to the dead feels no different to interacting with the living. It’s almost as if the person is still there. Also - Facebook allows for a public display of grief that does not involve actually interacting with people. You are left alone to your tears and thoughts, with only the ones you truly want surrounding you. If people popped in on Facebook, they prefer not to do it in Real Life.
Still – I find it eerie. And perhaps we should stop and think for a moment about the authenticity of our interactions on the site. If it feels exactly the same to post to the dead, how “alive” are we really in our interactions here? I’m not sure if I am making any sense, but what I am trying to say is that Facebook has become too big a replacement for real life conversation. I am very guilty here – I work alone and often have days where I don’t interact with actual people. To make up for this, Facebook is always checked once or twice (okay – about 4 times) a day. Here I find that I interact mostly with people I don’t really give two hoots about, and am awkward around when we see each other and have to speak and not type. At the same time, these useless interactions make my day go a bit faster. But then they also contribute towards my hermit-like weekday behaviour where I don’t make much effort to see anyone.
A friend of mine recently told me about an article she read. To paraphrase, the writer was saying that there is something very wrong, very unnatural about knowing so much about a person’s life without actually ever looking them in the eye. The writer was saying that Facebook is destroying the simple joy of coffee with an old friend – the simple joy of actually listening to the answer when you ask someone about their life. Nowadays, we know everything already and the conversation becomes stunted.
It is as if our Facebook profiles have become a second manifestation of the self – there’s the “real you”, known and seen by a handful of people, and then there’s the “online you”, known and seen by so many more. It’s no wonder people are turning to Facebook to grieve – if we’re honest, there are way too many people we know ONLY as “online people”. When the real person dies, there is no change in the online person, and thus it feels natural to still talk.
I used to be one of those constant updaters – if you had me on Facebook, you knew when and why I was happy, unhappy, frustrated, elated – everything. Then I realised that there’s nothing quite as odd as seeing someone I haven’t seen in years, only to be told a creepy-in-detail lot about my own life. These conversations were okay when the person was a fellow Facebook addict and I knew as much about them, but downright uncomfortable when they NEVER said boo or bah on the site and yet clearly spent more time on it than I did.
So I’ve stopped – I still update, but not about my innermost feelings. I’ll post something funny when I see it, or share a quote or two. No harm in that.
This way, I feel that the people who know me are the ones who actually know me. No need to tell the whole world how disappointed I was when the Tuisnywerheid had no fudge today.
When I’m dead, the last thing I want is for my second cousin’s uncle twice removed and that guy I met once in the Steers queue posting pictures of homemade sweetness and writing how much they miss me.
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