Eternal Life on Facebook (Meta)

Meta (the platform formerly known as Facebook) began in 2004 and has grown at a phenomenal rate; it is now closing in on 3 billion members and continues to grow. At first, it was just kids and a few adults (like me) keeping an eye on the kids. We all know how much trouble teenagers can get in, and how much bullying takes place on social media. After a few years, more and more people of a certain age joined, and younger people started leaving; Facebook, my kids said, was for old people. They came back, eventually, for a number of reasons, and have contributed to the exponential growth Facebook has seen over the last 10 years. Our histories, for better or worse, are there. Forever.

Over the last 5 years, I have lost a number of friends and family to death. I have mourned the loss of them, just like everyone else who knew them, recognizing how unfair and random life and death are. One day, I got a message from Facebook that one of them was about to celebrate a birthday; I should take a moment, Facebook told me, to wish him well on his special day. At first, I was brought back to when he died, and the memory made me sad all over again. I realized that if nobody takes a deceased person’s profile down, they will literally be frozen in time forever, or at least for as long as Facebook continues to thrive. I thought about blocking him; I wasn’t sure I could handle the constant reminder that he died too young. This same thing happened again and again, and will continue to do so for as long as I am part of this strange, unreal community online. Facebook has brought us a strange form of eternal life.

Two Sundays ago, churches all over the world celebrated All Saint’s Day. It is a poignant, sad, yet hopeful way of reminding ourselves that the saints are gone, but not forgotten. As we rang a chime for each name mentioned, some people quietly sobbed, while others sat in silence, remembering what they meant to all of us. They are not frozen in time; we believe they are with God. Their memory is a blessing, and a reminder of just how fragile, short, and fleeting this life is. When a friend who has died pops up on Facebook, I have some of the same feelings, but I also have regret. Their memory is also a blessing, but it feels, somehow, incomplete. I have no idea why – it just does.

We are taught to not speak ill of the dead, and when someone dies, we try to remember the good and forgive the bad. We try to be honest, but we also know there is nothing they or we can do to change the past, so we move on. Maybe eternity on Facebook is a good thing; maybe the yearly reminders and pictures and quotes will keep our memories more focused on who they were. I don’t know. I have gotten over my shock when this happens, and now I smile when my dead friends and family come back to life on social media. I remember them and am thankful that I knew them. May they rest in eternal Facebook heaven, as I hope they do in God’s kingdom. May our memory of them be a blessing.

Prayer – We thank You, holy and laughing God, for being able to remember those we have lost. They will always be in our hearts and minds. Amen.

Today’s art is called “Eternal Life” by Lydia Knauf.

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