Why do we remain friends?
Today is Doug’s birthday. He would have been 53. My age.
But he’s not, because he’s dead. He died last year, in the spring. His last post on Facebook is dated April 13, 2013. Three days later, he was dead.
I know all this because Doug’s Facebook account is still online. I can see his last post and the things he posted before that. He was a helicopter pilot with a job and a family and a sense of humor. Like so many people I know on Facebook, I never actually met him in person. He was a friend of a friend of a friend. I still felt sad when I heard that he’d died. And I feel sad when Facebook reminds me about his birthday. And I feel sad when I visit his Facebook page and see the wall posts his friends and family continue to share there.
Doug isn’t my first dead Facebook friend. Ralph is. He was a huge baseball fan. One of his last Facebook updates, dated July 2010, was about being in Boston for one of his daughters’ BU orientation. A month later, he was dead.
And there’s also Michael and Ron and Jim.
Of my 406 Facebook “friends,” at least five of them are dead. I say “at least” because I don’t know how many others who aren’t close friends or simply aren’t active on Facebook have passed away.
For these people, Facebook has become a sort of virtual gravesite, a place where visitors can come and leave comments and photos. A place where they can tell the deceased how much they miss him or just that they were thinking about them.
Or wish them a happy birthday.
Maybe that’s why we stay friends with these dead people? So we feel welcome at their virtual gravesites? So we have a place to pay our respects when we want to?
Or simply so we don’t forget them?
Happy birthday, Doug.