I had an odd experience first thing this morning. I clicked on my Facebook page and noticed that one of the suggestions for friends was somebody who I know is no longer with us – he died last year. I suspect that this type of thing happens a lot, but it is not a subject that I’ve heard other people talking about online. It got me thinking. Maybe there is a whole legion of dead people looking for friends on the Facebook and on the other social media sites; perhaps they are the ghosts of our technologically advanced age.
Lonely Ghosts Can be Upsetting
It could be quite upsetting to get a friend request from somebody you know has died. Of course, if you were really close you might have already added them as a friend, but what if you just signed up to one of these social media websites – would these ghosts come calling suggesting that you become a friend to them? How many pages on these sites belong to dead people; surely it must be in the millions by this stage.
I’ve visited the social media pages of dead people and must admit that it is a bit depressing. When you read their tweets or updates they are often full of plans for the future, but then one day it stops – no more updates. The same applies to us all; we will never know if that next update is going to be the last one.
Unfollowing the Dead
The events of this morning got me thinking about the protocol for dealing with dead people on the web. Should we unfollow them or stop being their friend on Facebook? Surely it would be a bit gloomy to discover one day that most of your social media pals were now ghosts – and if we live long enough then this day will almost certainly come.
But what about unfollowing these people; is it like saying they are no longer important to us? Some might even say that it’s a bit disrespectful. Is it not better that we keep their memory alive by leaving them there in our list of friends?
Does Facebook Offer Eternal Life?
In a way it is kind of comforting; the idea that a part of us will be there on the internet long after we are gone. Maybe people will still be able to read our social media ramblings hundreds of years into the future. What will they think of us? If we have one of those automatic twitter accounts we could still be sending people annoying spam even though everyone who knew us dead – wouldn’t that be a way to become an immortal?