Since making the plunge into Facebook a few years ago, I have had three of my Facebook friends die. Two were good friends, one primarily a Facebook friend. Heart attack, accident, heart attack.
They all died prematurely and their deaths were made more tragic in that all left young children behind.
One was a good friend in high school, and teammate on the football team. I saw him a few times in the five or so years after we had graduated, then at the class reunions I attended. We chatted quite a bit on Facebook in the beginning and a couple of times on the phone. He made some informal plans about bringing his bicycle to Michigan, with special interest in trails on the east of the of the state, so that he could claim to have been to Hell and back.
One was a good friend in Grand Rapids, with whom I worked (at two companies) for a total of about 5 years. He was my go-to-guy for sushi lunches in the area. He was a great sax player, and he knew a lot about a lot of things and I think he was chronically underutilized in his work.
The third was somebody I had some classes with in high school and I think I had seen once or twice in the years since. I was actually getting rather tired of some of his extreme views on Facebook and didn’t have that much interaction with him.
I’ve always known that friends of mine (from towns I lived in 40, 30, 15 years ago…) would die and never really thought about it how I might learn of their passing. Prior to my entry into the cyber world (15+ years ago), people that I knew have died. I usually heard about their passing from my family members or mutual co-workers and classmates.
When my friend (and Facebook friend), Julio died, a mutual friend from high school sent me a message of his passing. His Facebook wall was busy for several weeks afterwards as friends and his extended family paid their respects.
His daughter was providing updates on his wall, and still occassionally does, three years later. It was a little freaky at first when I started to get these updates in my newsfeed from Julio. They were in the 3rd person; it reminded me of the way that over-indulged athletes (and Bob Dole) speak about themselves. It seemed a little less freaky as time went on.
About a year later, another friend’s wife, sent me a friend request. I didn’t know her that well, but I had no reason to deny her friend request. I found out she had friended me specifically to inform me that he had died. She didn’t know of another way to reach me. (you may have noticed I have a rather ordinary name, there is usually more than one Scott Smith in the local phone books ).
More recently, a high school acquaintance who had friended me in Facebook went in to the hospital for routine surgery, I didn’t notice any updates about his status in my feed, so I went to his Facebook wall and saw some updates from his wife. She had tagged him in her updates so her status posts were showing on his wall. I saw several updates that afternoon. I was stunned to learned that he had died in the hospital.
There are occasional updates from his FB wall as his wife tags him in an update of her own. What’s bizarre (though understandable) is when he gets tagged by someone wishing him happy birthday, or to ask how his job is going.
The status updates in my feed from my dead friends feel somewhat normal now. Though the fact that they still “like” stuff from the afterlife is a little harder to stomach.
If a product, or organizational page has an update and they had once “Liked” the page then Facebook informs me of this.
To see that a dead friend “Likes” Amazon, or NPR , or the NRA, or the Miami Dolphins still seems a little bit peculiar, even though I understand that in Facebook’s quest to demonstrate a business model that “Likes” are very important.
Facebook doesn’t know when people are dead . Perhaps if they did the “like” would be in the past tense, such as: “John Doe ‘liked ‘ Disney World” (OK that would be creepy).
Frankly , I doubt that Amazon, NPR, the NRA or the Miami Dolphins really care if they are liked by living, or dead people as long as they’re liked.
I have noticed (with admittedly few data points) that people who liked Samsung seem to die at a faster rate than the general population.
I ponder whether it’s gauche to unfriend dead friends. And whether it’s polite to refer to your dead friends as ‘data points’ for that matter.
Subtle product endorsements from dead friends, I suppose, are part of this brave new world in which we live. Perhaps Facebook Likes will be included in our eulogies and epitaphs: “Devoted Husband, Loving Father, Who Liked The Wizard of Oz, Trail Biking and Papa John’s Pizza…..”
Times change and so must I. Though I’m not sure how I’ll take it the first time that a dead friend Pokes me.