FaceBook’s Uneasy Dead

There’s something very unsettling about FaceBook, and it’s not the usual “meddling in my life,” “watching my every post,”coupled with hundreds of requests from friends to give them lives on one of the King.com addictive timewasters.

No, it’s more unsettling than those. It’s the fact that long after people die in the real world, their Facebook pages go on. You get notifications about their birthdays – even though they’ve been gone several years – it’s as though they are “undead,” living a zombie-like existence is the land of Facebook Evermore. Maybe they died at 82, but on Facebook they’ll be 87 next week.

There has to be a way to quietly let the dead go. To allow family or friends access to their silent pages, to post one last note – and then archive them in a special area of Facebook, the Père Lachaise of writers, racers, dads, moms, kids – all of whom left some page in the ever-ever land that’s Facebook.

While we Americans don’t do death well, we don’t talk about it, we don’t give people enough time off work to grieve and handle arrangements, and we have a huge industry of funeral directors and undertakers – many of whom have the unctuous, oiliness of Uriah Heep – we don’t allow our loved ones, or even our acquaintances, a dignified death on Facebook.

I think we should.

Then again, remembering the late, great, hysterical Spike Milligan, hero of The Goon Show in the 1950’s, is best done standing in front of his grave in the churchyard in Winchelsea. With his incomparable wit and understatement – Spike’s Celtic Cross memorial is inscribed in Gaelic with the immortal words “I told you I was ill.”

Had it been Facebook the unsuspecting would still be sending him get well cards.