Seeing My Dead Friends on Facebook

I sliced my middle finger open on the ceramic tile lining our kitchen wall. It was one of those silly, absent-minded accidents. I was leaning against the wall, reading the first novel in The Expanse series when it happened. I was trying to stretch my shoulder, so I put my hand on the wall for torque and a jagged, arrowhead-shaped tile caught my skin and ripped it open.

It was a deep tear.

It was bleeding profusely.

It wasn’t stopping.

My wife, Adrienne, was at the courthouse serving as a witness for our friend’s marriage. This was December 2012 and same-sex marriage had been legalized in Washington State that year. Clare and Hatlo were finally getting hitched! It felt awesome. It felt like a victory. It felt like progress with a capital “P.”

Once they finished at the courthouse, Adrienne was going to call me with the location, and I was going to meet them for dinner to celebrate.

Needless to say: that wasn’t happening now.

I called her instead.

“I think I need stitches,” were the first words out of my mouth.

It was a brief conversation, but we made plans to meet at the Group Health Urgent Care by our apartment on Capitol Hill. It’s just a few blocks away, but I didn’t think I should walk. I wrapped my finger tightly in a paper towel, jumped behind the wheel of my 98 Toyota Carolla, and put the pedal to the metal like Ayrton Senna in a Formula One championship race. I was bookin’ it.

I arrived minutes later and, luckily, found parking right across the street (that never happens in Seattle).

I checked into Urgent Care and the Admittance Nurse—a very sweet, motherly type—surveyed my hand. I hadn’t nicked a vein, but I did need stitches.

Adrienne arrived, and we headed back to a room for the Doctor to take a look. Four giant shots of anesthetic and eight stitches later, we were gleefully snapping pictures and posting about the experience on Facebook. It was over.

And that’s when I saw the messages on my Facebook Feed.

I didn’t understand what I was seeing at first. Nothing made sense. It’s frustrating, but when someone dies, people don’t tell you what happened on Facebook. They elude. They tell you the person’s name, but not what happened. Not how. Not why. There were clues, but no answers. I had to piece the timeline of events together from several disparate posts. I was Sherlock Holmes investigating a case he didn’t want to solve.

Well, it was elementary, dear reader: a close friend from college had unexpectedly passed away.

She was recently married. A new mother. A lot more life to live.

I was floored.

This is neither here nor there, but a few days later I was in an argument with my Dad about LGBT Rights and I haven’t spoken to him since. This was more than five years ago. Let’s just say, it was a rough week.

It’s hard to move past an event like this when you have a scar commemorating the event on your dominant hand. It’s a constant reminder and, from time to time, I find myself visiting my dead friend’s Facebook Page. There are a few photos of us together. A funny exchange. A post she made that I never saw. Is it weird to “like” it now?

I’ve had other friends pass away. Teachers. That guy I did theatre with in Cincinnati. People I had brief interactions with at a party. It’s starting to add up.

For the most part, I only use Facebook to tell people about my next project or to waste some downtime. I like it when people share interesting articles, a funny quip, or a photo of an experience they had. Honestly, I’m over the near-constant political and social outrage, but it comes with the territory. I acknowledge that it needs to be said, but I feel like your preaching to the choir to a certain extent. There’s probably a better platform for those messages, but…I digress.

I can’t always visit their graves, but I can visit them on Facebook. It’s a little weird to think of Facebook as a graveyard, but in some sense, it is.

Is there such a thing as an experiential graveyard? I guess so; it’s called Facebook.

If I ever have grandchildren, will they scour my Facebook to see what I was like? Will people send me private messages not knowing that I passed away? How long will my profile last after I’m gone? Will I get archived? Will future archaeologists locate the server my information is stored on and study me?

There’s probably a terrific Sci-Fi Thriller to be found in these questions. I’m seeing something where a holographic projection of my digital identity is created in the 27th century and I have to teach humanity how to be humane again. Wouldn’t that be the shit?!?! I’m okay with Ryan Gosling playing me.

Without technology, I wouldn’t have known the fate of most of these people. We moved apart. We stopped talking. I’m sorry to say this, but I only vaguely remember some of them. They’re part of a half-forgotten memory of a life I once lived. I know the face. The name. But I don’t remember why or how.

I guess we were “Friends.”

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