Four things I should refrain from doing on a crowded MTA train:
1) Tear the dirty scarf out from beneath the clever hat laying atop the hipster’s head in front of him.
2) Brush the dandruff from the organ-grinder’s coat of the cute girl beside me.
3) Rip Joe NYU’s copy of that fucking Stoppard play he’s been jabbing into your back for the last fifteen minutes, & begin reading it as if nothing had transpired.
4) Start up an impromptu pole-dancing class for “all the mamas in the crowd.”
I recently had a relative pass away. This, by itself, was not such a strange thing– it happens all the time. We weren’t particularly close, and she lived far enough away that I only had the privilege of meeting her on a handful of family occasions. Birthdays for the old folks, bar-mitzvahs for the young, anniversaries, weddings, &c.
The strange thing was, upon signing into Facebook this evening, under the ‘Suggestions’ panel, was her photograph, and a recommendation to ‘Make her Facebook experience better.’
It took my breath away.
Things got weirder as I clicked through. There was a photograph of the woman that I remembered, which was to be expected (what mourning husband or child even thinks to take these things down?), but, though she died nearly a year ago, I was bewildered to see wall postings from as recently as this past Thursday. Other distant relatives told her how much they missed her, as if they were speaking directly to her. Her daughter had posted her summer plans. It was almost as if they were leaving flowers on her grave. Or praying.
This got me thinking: given the ubiquity of social networking sites, how many of these virtual graves are out there? A brief Google scrape brought up an interesting article by the Consumerist on Facebook’s policy for the deceased, a few Facebook applications to “help you connect with the recently deceased,” and an extremely telling CNET article on Facebook allowing for memorials to be set up for the dead.
Social networking sites have become our generation’s roadside memorials, the public spaces we place our flowers when we’re unable to visit our departed kin and ken. It’s an interesting thing to contemplate, in an era of cemeteries like Hollywood Forever. If cemeteries’ purpose is to leave a tangible monument to the deceased, what form will their immortalization take in the future?