Perusing through social media is always a tumultuous event, finding great breaking crests at the day’s top relevant memes (keeping me there of course) but also knocking my sanity around with the constant barrage of political rhetoric and endless debate. Don’t worry, I have no intention of taking any of those roads here. Instead, I made another mistake of social media today: I went through the my “friends list.” Need to quote it there because of how many friends that actually is, but at least I know the vast majority in some fashion.
The mistake to be had though was in going through it name by name, A to Z. It started off as really a wondrous adventure, bringing back names my fifteen years on the Facebook platform collected. Unlocked memories abound of boot camp and high school and raucous college parties. But then I hit one I didn’t want to find: Maureen.
Dated her through three years of my first failed attempt of college, leaving her when I left for the military. But it wasn’t the bitterness of that breakup that hit me, it’s that she’s been dead for a few years now. Had severe allergies when climbing a mountain in Colorado and apparently choked to death. Forgot the antihistamines in the car. I found out from her mother on Facebook a day or so later. And there her face remains, some pictures with me in them still.
After a half hour of revisiting the good and the bad, I kept my pace with the list. The good memories some brought were able to lift my mood a little, but the melancholy of Maureen still bit some. Then I ran into Stewart. Old buddy in the Marine Corps from training. Mississippi accent so thick I had to translate it for everyone else. Completely unintelligible. Nicest guy you’d ever meet though. Went to the hospital one night for a sore leg. Military doctors found a clot and thought to treat it with blood thinners. Damn thing went straight his brain and the aneurysm killed him in a matter of hours. Never trusted those guys with anything ever again.
My venture through the list turned into a race from thereafter. Instead of good memories I jumped to each painful one. Cherry, dead from getting knocked out by a belligerent asshole when he was drunk. Bled into his brain while his friends partied in the next room over. Richard instantly died in bike accident. Ryan suffered a fate worse in his bike accident, left as a shell of himself to be cared for day in and out for the rest of his days. Victoria is still in prison for trying to murder her own daughter in a bathtub. Mike, Victoria’s husband, in prison for throwing her down the stairs after finding out. Kemeth, death by asphyxiation with his roommate when he left the car on in the garage and took a nap with it. And so on.
I never did finish the list. I just couldn’t myself through it. I know my grandfather is farther down in there, and my family’s own chocolate shop business account, a business that set them back almost a decade in wealth. The “friends list” is just riddled with memories of the dead locked in time amidst the perpetuity of social media servers.
As I write this, I’m led to think about the list in another decade and a half. How many more will perish? How many in the sea of faces will go down violently and leave the unfortunate observers to remember their collective fates. I know as I age I will continuously see this, but my generation has the distinct disadvantage of being there at Facebook’s beginning. We’ve held these accounts for over a decade, and watched our lists grow. In the first five years, no one died. In the next five, only one. But then it ramped up to bi-annually or worse. Accounts frozen in unending digital imprints for my generation to be drowned in as we grow older.
Then it inevitably leads me to think of my own end. I look at my own profile and compare it to theirs. Happy and seemingly on top of their respective worlds. Doing shots or jumping on mountains or riding motorcycles. And then there’s me, finally happy in my photo despite all the agitations of life that you could never tell from the image, apparently enjoying life. They all died looking like they could move forward and grow this catalogued life in the digital medium. Instead, they’re paralyzed in images full of life that couldn’t be further from the truth.
I look at my profile and wonder if this catalogue is enough for me to be immortalized in, but I find myself unsatisfied. I think I can do better. I know I can. But this collection of dead friends will grow and eventually I’ll be among them. I know Facebook purges accounts from time to time, but they’re all still there for me. Eventually I’ll add less friends than die in the year. At this rate, that doesn’t look terribly far away.
I think that’s enough internet gloom for me today. Logging out.
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