Death on the Internet

death on the internet

A co-worker and dear friend – let’s call her Lily – passed away about two years ago. At the time of her decease, she had all of five Facebook friends, of whom I was one.



She used to fret over her Facebook status constantly. She hated the fact that Facebook presented her as both a graduate of Harvard and Simmons. “Why doesn’t it always show Harvard first?” she asked me.



“It’s Facebook,” I said. “It addresses itself to the person looking at it. It may think I care more about Simmons than Harvard, and it’ll show me Simmons first.”



She looked murderous. “There’s got to be a way to fix this.”



Well, if you’re on Facebook, you know that there are very few ways to outfox Facebook.



Anyway, as I said, she passed away. I did not delete her from my Facebook friends, because I like seeing her name come up on my “friends” list. (Three of my seventy Facebook friends are deceased. I refuse to delete them. I like seeing their faces and names on the list. It allows me to pretend that they’re still alive.)



And then, the other day, I saw the following in my Facebook news feed:



LILY posted (five hours ago): I’m on the 6th day of Raspberry ultra drops and have lost 7lbs already, it’s insane! the first 3 days alone I lost over 2lbs. it really is amazing… you gotta check it out!



Dear me. Evidently someone hacked poor Lily’s Facebook account (which was, of course, never deactivated), and is using it to promote Raspberry Ultra Drops, whatever the hell they are.



This is pretty funny, since (as I said) Lily had all of five Facebook friends, and I’m sure all of us were startled to see Lily posting on Facebook from beyond the grave.



But it made me think of George Carlin’s old joke: “If you die while you’re on hold, will the little light on the telephone stop blinking?”



We all have dozens of Internet identities and membership and accounts. What happens to them when we die?  Should I notify Facebook that Lily’s account has been hacked? If I do, will they do anything about it?



And what will your survivors do when you pass away, and suddenly six months later you come back from the dead on Facebook with news about a new weight-loss plan?



Probably it’s worth thinking about.



I love thinking about Lily, floating around in the afterlife, incensed about her Facebook account being hacked. Lily was the soul of propriety.



But I suspect that, wherever she is right now, she’s pretty calm about it.


About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

4 Responses to Death on the Internet

  1. Malou says:

    I know the feeling. I also have a few friends on Facebook who already departed from this world and they are still on my friends list. I also like to pretend that they are still here and at night, I include them in my prayers.

  2. starproms says:

    Ho ho, what a thought indeed. The internet allows us to have multiple personalities and identities if we are a little dishonest about it. I try to keep mine separate because I am not the same person to everyone. I also love the thought of Lily’s ‘ghost’ floating around for evermore. Perhaps she is smiling when she reads about the raspberry diet!!

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