‘Lord Andrews’ says it much better than I ever could, so I will for the most part present without comment this excellent article about persistent MySpace and Facebook profiles for people who are now long dead, the Virginia Tech victims amongst them.
I have witnessed this phenomenon firsthand: a year ago, Ben, an acquaintance of mine at Virginia Commonwealth University, killed himself by jumping off a twenty story building. Before long, Ben was only the name of a person on Myspace; the real human was long since gone, but his profile was never deleted. Before he died, Ben gave the profile password to his best friend, who used it to send out news of the boy’s death and funeral arrangements to his entire social network. It was strange, receiving a message from a man announcing that he was dead. Later that summer, I encountered a memorial to him at an anime convention where he used to work – eight of his Myspace photos were printed out on 8×11″ glossy photo paper and pasted to a display board. It seemed very surreal at the time; it was the first occasion I thought to consider the implications of these funereal web pages.
Ben has been dead for almost a year now, but people are still talking to him online. His “wall” is covered in chatter: “Happy birthday”, “how are you”, “we miss you”, “our prayers are with you” and “we hope you’re in a better place” are all standard fare. A girl named Jenny wrote Ben an entire paragraph
Read the whole thing. You’ll be glad you did.
This post appeared in its original form at DC Metblogs