Kel Kelly

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Facebook After Death

December 28, 2010 10:57 AM

For all the differences in the cultures around the world, there is one common thread that connects us: the desire to never forget a loved one who has passed away. The unfortunate reality is that as time passes, granular details of a deceased’s life slowly fade. As we grow older, we find our memories are not what they once were, and although we will never ever forget a lost loved one, many of the smaller details begin to escape our memory.

Before Facebook, to keep memories alive, someone had look at the old photos that they collected somewhere in a box or swap stories with a friend. Once in a while, you might even hear or tell a story or memory that had never been shared. However, in most cases, a loved one’s life is often recalled through common headlines, iconic representations of who they once were — the athlete, the giver, the comedian, the whatever. The stories reinforce the overarching attributes that defined someones life, but really never capture the spirit or emotion of the person who passed. The voice of the deceased died when they did.

For younger people, the challenge to remember a lost loved one is only further amplified. Imagine a child who lost a parent when they were six years old. At the end of the day, they will never really know that parent from first-hand experience. They are dependent on the shared stories of others and a limited number of old photos.

Enter Facebook. Although one of its least talked about attributes, Facebook allows for a loved one to have a voice, even after death. Facebook permanently captures all the granular details that would otherwise get lost in time. From the daily status updates to conversations between friends, Facebook enables the deceased’s voice to live on through the shared content.

Imagine a six year old losing a parent today. If the parent has been on Facebook for a few years, that six year old now has a first hand, daily account of that parent’s life. They can hear the parents voice through the multiple status updates that they posted. They can see what types of communications occurred between the parent and his/her friends and get a sense of the things that made them laugh or cry. Facebook content captures the life of a human being from his or her perspective and ensures that no memory will ever fade.

I would give my left lung to have had my Mom on Facebook before she passed 7+ years ago. I have a feeling she would have been addicted to the platform. She would have loved how connected she could be with family and friends. And I would love nothing more than to go back and witness her life again through her own voice.

As crazy as it sounds, I take some comfort in knowing that my kids will be able to go back through my profile after I pass. They can be reminded first hand of the things that I was passionate about and the things that sent me over the edge. They can laugh at the things that made me laugh. They can see that I was happy and loved my life. And more importantly, they can see that they were my life. My comfort is not rooted in anything narcissistic on my part, but because I honestly believe Facebook will ease their healing process and keep memories alive in a way that before Facebook was never possible. I believe Facebook will bring them happiness and peace sooner than they could have ever experienced before it existed.

For as much as Facebook is about sharing and experiencing life, I think its impact after death is a far greater contribution to the world. What do you think?

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Posted by Kel | in Featured, Uncategorized | 19 Comments »

19 Comments on “Facebook After Death”

  1. Meagan Shaffer Says:

    Kel, this is great. I am with you – although my Mom only sent one email in her life (and it was to me, btw) I think she would have loved Facebook once she figured it out. She was so funny, and it would be fantastic to have an archive of her take on things. I got to know her as an adult, but my kids will never know her at all, and it would be wonderful to have something like a Facebook page to show them!

  2. Michelle Says:

    I never really thought about Facebook from this perspective, but just last week a young woman in my town, only 41-years old, lost her life suddenly and she left 4 children behind, ages 5-11. I hope that she was on FB so that her kids can have a glimpse into the life she led before passing.

  3. Kel Says:

    meagan, that is so sad. your situation is a great example of how priceless facebook after death will be. hearts.

  4. Kel Says:

    michelle, that’s awful…especially this time of year. i hope she was on facebook and her children will have an endless lifeline to her thoughts and heart.

  5. Meagan Shaffer Says:

    :) That’s ok – luckily, I inherited her knack for story telling!!

  6. Caroline Bergan Says:

    This makes me tear up! Never thought of fb that way. So, so true as when my friend passed this summer, I immediately looked at our wall-to-wall and messages. It made me remember her voice and how she phrased her thoughts and feelings. While there are certainly many negative aspects of fb, I really appreciate how you articulate such a positive part of the craze.

  7. Trudy Says:

    We lost one of our beloved P+s’ers two years ago this December. She is still on facebook – and I have occasionally viewed her family album.

    Some folks did express discomfort with seeing “Reconnect with Melanie” in the sidebar. I chose to view it as a reminder of how precious life is and how special my co-workers, family and friends are. I was very lucky to have had Melanie in my life.

  8. Karen Says:

    Kel, I am one of the people you describe; my dad passed away 38 years ago next month. I was seven. One of my sisters gave us all a wonderful present this Christmas – our old home videos on a DVD. Simply seeing my father in some of the video clips in itself was an amazing gift, but, it left me with a strong sense of yearning for more… to hear his voice, to hear his laugh (there was no audio), etc. Over the years I have ached to “know” him, and, what you describe is what I wish I had…

  9. Deirdre Says:

    Great post Kel. I envy those who’s parents had video cameras growing up so they have been able to capture those moments in time. We never had one, and many photo albums just seemed to have disappeared over the years. So my memories of Mom are what I can conjure up in my brain or in my heart. I too wish there was Facebook back then – she would have been addicted for sure – and there would be endless posts about what she was most passionate about.

  10. Frank Says:

    Kel, your post is so true. If only Facebook pre-dated some of the important people who we’ve all lost in our lives, it would make the great memories that much easier to recall and enjoy. Think about it, the expression “passed down from one generation to another” used to mean hearing about your loved ones as folklore, through stories, pictures, distant memories. Now our children, etc. have a virtual time capsule, a movie reel of pictures, video, expressions and comments immortalized for generations to see. WOW! It gives me goose bumps. Thanks for the post Kel, really makes you realize how lucky we are to live in such a technology rich world.

  11. Kel Says:

    hey caroline — thanks for taking the time to comment and share your experience. not sure how your friend passed, but it had to be tragic — she was way too young to lose her life. for all the negative wrath mark zuckerberg and facebook endures, i think facebook after death is another reason to give him props…that and committing to give the majority of his net worth to charity.

  12. Kel Says:

    trudy, i remembered hearing of melanie’s passing on facebook. i can’t believe it’s been two years. although i didn’t know her, i immediately went to facebook to learn more about her. i appreciate the “reconnect” issue. regardless, i think preserving melanie’s voice for those who loved her is well worth any disturbing inconvenience. something tells me melanie was lucky to have you in her life too, trudy.

  13. Kel Says:

    karen, your comment made me cry. i can’t help but imagine how proud your dad must be of you. you represent everything an exceptional human being is about. the dvd gift sounds so thoughtful. why does it not surprise me that your sister is as kind-hearted as you. i’m happy future generations will be able to tap into our facebook profiles to see how crazy we really were. haha. sending love to san franciso…

  14. Kel Says:

    deirdre, just imagine all the rants against the republicans she would have posted. haha.

  15. Kel Says:

    frank, i think facebooks’ digital legacy will soothe many hearts from here until eternity. thinking of you and your dad. hearts.

  16. Heather K. Margolis Says:

    Kel, Really great post and very true. My good friend with a young son lost his wife 2 years ago. It’s nice for us (and his son) to be able to see how amazing she was, how hard she fought her cancer, and how much she loved her son. I will say it is a little eerie when her name appears in my events on her birthday or someone tags her in a picture.

  17. Kel Says:

    heather — that is a wonderful example of the point in this post. so sad to hear her son lost his mother, but the facebook insight will allow him to stay connected with who she was — and how much she was loved. sending hugs…

  18. Anya Says:

    Hi Kel, I think it’s a great, insightful post. I’ve never thought of Facebook in that way, but after having read this piece, I can’t help but notice how true it sounds. To be honest, it inspired me to go over the profile of a friend who recently passed away in a tragic car accident, and it brought up so many good memories. I thought it’d be hard and odd to read status updates of someone who is no longer with us. But it did make me remember and laugh at our shared adventures. Thanks for your insight!

  19. Kel Says:

    anya, i am so sorry to hear about your friend’s passing. i would imagine going through his/her profile would ignite a roller coaster of emotions — from tears to laughter. i love how you use the term “shared adventures.” it put a smile on my face. thanks for taking the time to comment.

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