by Ann Fontaine
Recently this image has been traveling around Facebook. It caused me to wonder about “friends” who have died and with whom I am still “friends.” I wonder how people feel about continuing Facebook friendships with people who can no longer post their thoughts. At first I would “unsubscribe” to people when they died. Now I leave them in place.
The other day a birthday of a friend, who has died, came up in my feed and I visited her page. It was surprising to see how many were wishing her Happy Birthday and hoping she was in a better place – happy and healthy. There were notes from during the year from friends, grandchildren, and adult children and others expressing the sadness of the loss, joy at the time spent together.
Some of were discussing this phenomena and I asked what people thought: comforting or creepy?
Elizabeth Kaeton commented, “I actually take comfort in seeing their names when I'm looking for someone else. And, I confess, I visit the FB pages of people who have died; sort of in the same way I visit gravestones at cemeteries and niches at columbaria. I've thought of "unfriending" but as long as the families/friends of the deceased keep up their page, I'll visit.”
Maria Evans, an essayist for Speaking to the Soul and Daily Episcopalian wondered, “Well, ya know, I visit the cemetery now and then and chat with my dearly departed relatives. Maybe we need a Facebook cemetery.”
Elizabeth Colette Melillo reflected, “Normally I would joke about this, but it has saddened me, during the past year, when people who had recently died (without my knowing this) were flagged in birthday reminders and the like. I was sorry that I posted greetings thinking they were alive. I saw an extremely sad question in the Facebook FAQ - 'my daughter committed suicide - how do I remove her account?"
Pamela Kandt thinks it is a nice reminder of people gone from our lives, “I actually love seeing their names pop up. We lose so many people in this world and it's good to have reminders of people we have cared about.”
John Deuel speaks from personal experience of family Facebook sites, “They seem to have evolved into virtual gravesites, where friends and family visit occasionally and leave verbal flowers, or just spend a few minutes reliving special moments through photos that are still there. I think it's developing a place in our lives now and social networks should probably make a few minor changes to accommodate this evolution."
Linda MacMillan writes, "If I hadn't experienced it, I might think it was creepy, but I like seeing the name of someone pop up. It's as if they are still here. It gives pixels to the notion that as long as we remember someone, they are not really gone. I don't seek out their pages, but I enjoy having a reminder that they were here and that in some way they still are."
What do you think? Comforting or creepy?
The Rev. Ann Fontaine is serving as an interim priest for Grace Episcopal Church in Astoria, Oregon. She is the author of Streams of Mercy: a meditative commentary on the Bible and keeps the blog what the tide brings in.
**Additional note from Episcopal News Service:
In response to readers’ requests, Episcopal News Service is expanding its offerings and now provides a special area of reader-submitted obituaries. “The new section of the Episcopal News Service website has been designed to allow people to submit their own Episcopal-related obituaries in an easy, user-friendly manner,” noted the Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg, Episcopal News Service editor/reporter.
The new obituary section launches on January 8.
The obituary section is available here
Obits can be uploaded by using the form here