I know, it’s an odd title and kind of depressing but I have had two experiences in the past few weeks that really brought home the permanency that sites like LinkedIn and Facebook have on our lives and afterlives. I know that both LinkedIn and Facebook have criteria for removing a deceased person’s profile from the social networking platform but I’m not sure that family members have that as top of mind when they lose a loved one. That is completely understandable. In fact, it may be a while before a family member realizes that the profiles are up on LinkedIn and/or Facebook. Although it seems to me that those profiles may be one of the first things that is brought to the attention of a loved one because both of these social media sites are so integral to most of our lives these days.
Every morning I check Facebook for that day’s birthdays of people I know. I think it’s very cool to wish someone a happy birthday and it’s awesome to receive so much positive energy when it’s your special day. A few weeks ago one of the names that came up was a deceased friend of mine. Someone I had dated in high school many, many moons ago and then re-connected with 25 years later thanks to the Internet. It took me by surprise when I saw his name on Facebook that morning and I felt compelled to go to his Facebook profile. He has been gone for a few years now. Suddenly I was overwhelmed with the desire to write something on his Timeline as if I were speaking to him. Much the same as speaking to a headstone at a cemetery, I guess. The difference is that my Post on his Facebook page would be seen by others. Facebook does have a program to Memorialize someone’s Timeline after they pass and that’s at the same time cool and creepy, at least to me.
A week or so ago I was working on LinkedIn and I received one of the Endorsement requests that LinkedIn posts for someone who had recently passed away. It was startling and uncomfortable to see their picture and ask if I would Endorse them for something. I realized right then that his widow had obviously not had the profile taken down and may not even have thought of it. I wondered then if I should send her a note. I decided not to at this point. LinkedIn also does not require the person removing the profile to be a family member. Facebook requires a family member to make the request and outlines what documentation is needed.
It seems as we go forward we will have a record of our lives on Facebook and other social media sites. It was cathartic to Post something on my high school friend’s Timeline but it was also an odd feeling. I suppose we are building individual histories which will also tell the story of our culture and society for those who come after us. Maybe kids will start learning history from those who lived it by what they wrote on their Facebook Timeline and LinkedIn profiles. And maybe we should all designate in our Wills what is to be done with our Facebook and LinkedIn profiles after our passing from this life experience.