We live in a culture where our avatars never get to a final place to rest in peace. Friends of mine who have long since passed away, some tragically, some naturally, some too soon, some living a long fruitful life, now live forever as a friend of mine on Facebook. The banner above their smiling picture simply states "Remembering (Insert Name), but how can we let someone go if they are always lingering a click away? What happens when we have defriended our long departed friend and so desperately wish we hadn't? What is this virtual world we live in? I have struggled with having one foot out of social media and one foot in. My boyfriend, brothers, and parents are not on Facebook and seem to be living a blissful existence. I'm not someone who posts things regularly or engages in online debates with people I hardly remember, but I work in an industry that uses social media to promote, engage, and create an audience. The start of this blog, after many many years of not blogging, has me really questioning what roll I want to play in this virtual reality. Do I want to end up one day as just a memory page?
The reason I even came across pictures of these friends is because I use it as a tool to cast projects, or connect people in my industry with each other. Recently I had been scrolling through my Facebook friends to cast a reading of a play I've been working on, and I came across a friend I had forgotten was no longer living. How can that be? He looked the same as the days when he was living and maybe I would have reached out to say hi. I paused because I remembered years ago, when my x-boyfriend died tragically, it was too horrific to see his name coming up so I defriended him. At that moment, before Facebook really decided how to memorialize the dead, I had to defriend him in order to move forward with my grief but I went through a period of desperately trying to find a way back to those photos I knew by heart. I couldn't go back once I defriended him and I mourned that page. I wasn't necessarily mourning him, but the fact that our mutual friends were still connected to him and could make believe that he was alive. What was I missing out on? Did it mean something that I was no longer connected to his ghost? What is our relationship now to each other? I think this platform that so many of us use was meant to bring humanity closer together but are we creating a template for living instead, and a certain sense of immortality?
I think if my grandmother, who was the first person close to me who had died, was living as a memorial page on Facebook I wouldn't have the opportunity to really remember her the way I wanted to remember her. She died too soon, she died unexpectedly, and what I have from her are letters with her handwriting that are addressed to Amy Doll. I keep them in a box on a shelf that I don't often take out, but know are there. When I do look at them I analyze those swirly letters, a shaky hand from a woman who had struggled from birth. My grandmother didn't have an easy life but she lived her life out-loud and in color. Something that a computer screen could never capture. There is a feeling to the texture of her paper, and an understanding from the cards she choose to send me, and the words she managed to fit in limited space. I can have those memories, and they can be my own, without having to share them with the world.
I'm a letter writer, I like to send cards, and I want to truly connect with people in this world. Connection is hard when we live with so much fear of judgment, but I vow to continue to share my life in real time. To create a space for people who care to know me to know me. Perhaps this blog is my way of sharing and working through some of the larger questions I have right now about how we come together and connect.
I'm still not ready to defriend those that have passed away but maybe I can also remember them more, think of them more, and carry their spirits with me. Living is messy and without pages highlighting the smiles and good times I can remember and love the mess. If we were all just pictures on a page how could we ever truly be there for each other? The irony of all this is most people who are reading this blog have found it by clicking on my Facebook page. What a wonderful weird wacky world we are living in. More soon!
Lots of love,