The Virtual Memorial

Columns | Grigory Borodavkin | February 2011

Killing time on Facebook, mindlessly clicking everything in sight. My head rolling from one hand to another when supporting elbows grow numb. Spellbound by invitations to play Farmville and Texas Hold’em. Photo albums burst random faces on the screen- smiling, waving, and posing. Crushing waterfalls of images are making me queasy.

I return to the home screen and Facebook asks me to reconnect with someone I don’t remember knowing. I obey. Another click. Another page. I don’t remember knowing this person.

No recent activity. Just wall posts from friends. They miss her. They wish she were with them. I scroll until capital RIP’s fill the screen. My eyebrows arch. A quiet trepidation sets in. I straighten out and focus. Here I realize that this is a person who has recently passed away. I start from the beginning working my way down the page. The stony grief grows raw the closer I come to the day that she passed. I read every single post. It’s like I’m looking at a plane crash.

Her Facebook profile had become a memorial. A place to grieve and remember. My mind starts reeling at the though. Has technology really come this far? The eeriness of it all is amplified by the fact that it’s still the same, anonymous faceless internet- the place where we can say what we like without the fear of repercussion.

Among the friends and relatives, I stumble upon quite an insensitive post. It says that other people should learn from the mistakes of the dead girl, that she was foolish, lost to the world way before she died.  This has caused outrage, naturally enough, because even if its true, no one wants to have they’re face rubbed in it.

My feelings about this virtual memorial are mixed. The tragedy of a young life cut short and the natural need for closure is explicable. But building it up in to some morbid monument to death makes me uneasy.

Still, I can’t bring myself to remove her from my friends list.

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