Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Dying Online

When I came home from work tonight, I found a post on Facebook from a cousin who graduated from a local college last year.  She was mourning the death of a fellow classmate.    In other words, my cousin was announcing the death of someone who died - as we older people like to say - too soon.

I don't know how this young woman died, but a quick look online revealed two things.

First, I was a third degree connection of hers on LinkedIn.  The person linking us used to work with me and now works at the college she intended.

Second, my cousin was her friend on Facebook, meaning she was a friend of a friend of mine.

Because of these connections, I was able to see her picture on LinkedIn, and was able to view her timeline on Facebook. (Least this sound creepy, I didn't linger long- I just wanted to know something about this person who meant something to one of my cousins and who was linked to me through social media.) Meantime, her college has organized a candlelight vigil for her in physical life. 

I can mourn the untimely passing of someone I never knew thanks to social media.

When I graduated from high school, many of those in my graduating class went on to college.  Two members of my class died within a year, both on the same weekend, in unrelated car accidents.

I didn't find out about this (because I didn't know either individual) for many years later. I went to an urban high school in NYC, and there were a lot of people in my graduating class.

Now, we know something like this in hours. 

In a way, this woman will live forever through her social networking accounts.  I know that Facebook has a procedure for "memorializing" the account of a dead person, and that there have been attempts to pass state laws controlling the process of what happens to a dead person's account..  I don't know how LinkedIn handles it.

But it did get me to thinking about what I should do about my own accounts.

Have you faced this type of situation in your life?


  1. After many years without contact, I received a "friend request" on Facebook from a childhood friend, but it was his sister who had really been a close friend. She was on his friends' list so I sent her a request which went unanswered. Then I went back to his page and saw there was an photo album of "[my friend]'s wedding", but the photos didn't include her, just an apparent groom and a few others. Then I took a good look at the album and discovered the location was a hospice.
    By "googling" hers and her husband's names I found a listserv where she had been active, and read through that discussion to learn some details of her illness. She died shortly afterward, and if not for social media I would presume, to this day, that she is still "out there" somewhere.

  2. "Have you faced this type of situation in your life?"

    Well Yeah, I have. I do in fact. I am faced with this situation as I am now 59 years old.

    But I am just the quasi-anonymous 'Fripouille' on Blogger, and I also write press articles under my own name, and I do other things elsewhere. But so what after all?

    If I post it I revendicate it. Alive, or dead...

    Voila madame et sur ces mots je te souhaite une excellente soirée. :)

  3. My sister passed away last year and her Facebook account is maintained by her ex husband *shudders*. I'll be looking into the memorializing that Facebook does. What an awesome idea. Thanks for the info, Alana. WRITE ON!

  4. Closing a social media account after death is something I had never given thought to. Def something to think about. I was facebook friends with an older friend of my mom's who passed away. After her death many nice memorials were posted on her page. That was nice but I'd think after a period of time the page should be closed.


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