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Baltimore author/playwright and UB instructor Kimberley Lynne is disturbed by the fact that the dead and gone never seem to depart Facebook — here’s what she proposes be done about this insensitive oversight.

Five of my Facebook friends have expired, yet occasionally a helpful sidebar will cheerily suggest: You haven’t talked to Greg in a long time, why don’t you send him a Starbucks gift card?

I’d love to, I think, but I hope he’s beyond those mortal concerns now.

Dead smiling faces flash by on my friends list, tugging at my heart. Those ghostly images don’t depict their recent transition into some other energy.

In the ancient story of Antigone, evil Uncle Creon refuses to bury a traitor, and he leaves the body to fester where it fell. Mark Zuckerberg is abandoning our dead to the battlefield and breaking rules that define civilization.

Social media has altered memorial ritual that acknowledges temporality, and Facebook has morphed into our funeral guestbook. Loved ones maintain the perished people’s pages in order to post devastating remembrances. Erin passed away three years ago, and a musician pal just sent her a message about a band gig this month. Roger’s close friends promote his memorial scholarship fund on his page. Darren died in August 2010, and his buddies still report juicy gossip. One of Greg’s writing students posted this heart-wrenching message: I still owe you a story.

Is Facebook the new seance? Do we really believe that the ether cloud is part of heaven? Do we really want that cellphone to the Other Side?

Facebook should create a deceased category for, like it or not, the unburied dead float on the web, unfinished, reminding us that not only are we portions for foxes, but our little lives will forever haunt the purgatory of the Internet. We need programming that will not encourage phantom invitations or wraith gift cards but will continue to allow the living to openly convey the heavy sadness of our loss in order to abate our grief and guilt.

Funeral homes host blogs. A new Google program, Inactive Account Manager, allows clients to plan for their digital afterlife. FB needs an About classification for those traveling that undiscovered country.

Kimberley Lynne is a playwright, novelist, teacher and theatrical producer. Her ghost folklore novel, Dredging the Choptank, was published by Apprentice House in 2010. Lynne is a member of the Dramatist Guild and Actors Equity Association. For more information, please visit her site.

4 replies on “Burying Facebook’s Dead”

    1. Thanks so much, Scott Wallace Brown! Good news. Spread the word, all, about this obscure Facebook option, that relatives can either memorialize their loved one or remove their page. In the link below, Facebook does state that “It’s our policy to memorialize the account of a deceased person.”
      What a relief.

  1. There have been some interesting funeral services in online multiplayer games. One well-known incident involved a much publicized funeral, which was then attacked by an opposing clan *during* the service. It got a lot of people mad and made a lot of others laugh, and all the rest of us are not really sure where to stand on it.

    Here’s a link to an interesting analysis of that particular incident:

  2. I had to memorialize my cousin’s page when he passed away suddenly several weeks ago. You just have to send them a link to the page and a link to the obituary.

    His page became a nice memorial to him, as friends far and wide left notes of memories and happy times, photos and music. He would have liked it. I don’t know if we will ever get to a point where it would be better to take it down, but I’m leaving that up to his mother.

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