I Friend Dead People*


There’s this dead guy on my Facebook page and I don’t know what to do about him. He died back in mid-December, just a few days after he logged in to his Facebook page for the last time. I’d pretty much forgotten he was in my friends list until his birthday notice popped up earlier this week. Today is his birthday, so Facebook reminds me, not that I knew the date when he was alive.

See, we weren’t really friends, just business acquaintances. Indeed, we only share one friend on Facebook, and I know her but vaguely, though better than some of my Facebook friends, who I know only through friends or friends of friends. They could be dead, too, for all I know.

The weird thing is, once his upcoming birthday was announced, the guy was almost permanently in that little group of friend’s pages that shows up on your home page. And since he never uploaded a photo of himself, there’s just a ghostly outline — which I guess is a better likeness now than when he was alive. The spooky silhouette makes it more difficult to ignore him, or at least the Facebookial representation of his ex-existence.

The good thing is, he won’t SuperPoke me, but he’s haunting my Facebook page.

The question is, what to do about it? It wouldn’t feel right to “unfriend” him just because he’s dead. But do I really need a previously alive person on my Facebook page? Don’t get me wrong: the good thing is, he’s not going to SuperPoke me or hit me with a chicken or throw a water balloon or a sheep at me on Facebook. The bad thing is, he’s haunting my Facebook page.

According to a column in the New York Times, it’s not unusual for survivors to leave up a deceased family member’s Facebook page. It’s kind of a cyber-memorial that says, “He was here, on Facebook, at least.”

At a family member’s request, Facebook will delete a deceased person’s account. But, [Brandee] Barker [,a Facebook spokeswoman] added gently, “Many people who have somebody they’re still mourning find it very comforting and feel it keeps them connected to a loved one.”

But that assumes the family knew he had a Facebook page. Maybe he did it in secret. But there’s an adult daughter listed among his friends, and if you Google him, not only does his obit come up, but so does the link to his Facebook page, so the word’s out there.

I suppose the reason I would take his page down is because it’s so pitiful. He started doing Facebook in October 2007, and by the time he died, he’d accumulated just 16 friends, joined three groups and gave one guy a beer. That’s not much of a life on Facebook, while in real life the guy truly was somebody back in the day, a real, bona fide, New York City kind of important person. But you wouldn’t know it to look at his Facebook page; you’d have to read the obituary to understand he was not the loser his Facebook page would have you believe.

So I guess he’s going to stay on my friends list. I’ll keep him around to remind me — every year on his birthday — of my own tenuous mortality, oh, and to live well and leave a great-looking Facebook page.

*Thanks for the headline, Trish


  • choupachoup
    February 10, 2009 - 10:34 pm | Permalink

    brilliant bit of writing !
    thank you.

  • madteacher
    February 11, 2009 - 5:00 pm | Permalink

    I can give you a few reasons why he only had 16 friends, but I won’t taint your heartfelt tribute.

    Great writing! Thanks for the laugh.

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