Time in the time of social media

I just realized that in a few year’s time, a lot of my Facebook contacts will be dead. And I’m probably on that list as well since most of my contacts are people close to my age, and I’m not exactly in my teenage years anymore. In the context of time, human life is just a blink.

I’m not being deliberately morbid or dark; just stating a matter-of-fact reality that’s inevitable whether one accepts it or not. Just a few minutes ago I logged in to my account and I remembered someone—a Facebook friend and a former colleague—who died a few weeks ago. Really heartbreaking considering the person was a single mother of two and she died at a relatively young age. So far the mortality rate in my contacts alone has already reached four. It feels like visiting these people’s profiles only adds to the desolate and gaping void that they left. Like an online mausoleum with virtual artifacts and memorabilia gathering digital dust for visitors to see  every now and then.

image created by Pawel Kuczynsk
image created by Pawel Kuczynski

You can still read the last few messages posted on their walls by the those who remembered them, even the person’s own posts  complete with photo captions, status updates and assorted glimpses into their lives chronicled on a regular basis up until their abrupt departure. One can sense—looking into their last entries—that these people simply went on an extended sabbatical and will be back one day to update their accounts about their experiences.

Back then, when someone died their mementos and assorted documents (photos, certificates, yearbooks)  that recorded their lives are usually found in some trunk within the household that’s supposed to keep all records of milestones in the family. Shut out from the entire world and maybe just a single portrait found in the family living room to remind people how they looked like at the prime of their lives. A coping mechanism without a doubt to ease the bereaved of constant reminders of the deceased.

As with all other aspects of social media, everything is amplified and exaggerated : Egos, photos,  social standing, and reminders. Even the dead who still have active accounts show semblances of being ‘alive’ by the activities found in their accounts by well-wishers and others who are still in the grips of sadness because of their absence. Nothing wrong with all of that, but I am continually amazed to have been a witness to a significant transition in human history. With the advent of social media, even death and the way people celebrate life have undergone a strange and profound metamorphosis that will be permanently practiced by today’s generation and the others in the coming years and beyond.

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