July 19, 2010
In the Tricycle office, we’ve realized that when promoting blog posts, Tricycle news and other events online, that the Facebook community doesn’t seem to like death. The meaning is playfully two-fold for such a somber subject: Facebook users, in general, do not seem to respond very enthusiastically to posts about death, and more specifically, they fail to click the “Like” button.
It isn’t so hard to believe. Compared to other mediums, Facebook thrives on the idea of life. Both the nature of the content and the means by which it is distributed is social; personal. It revolves around the living and breathing people that you know and what is happening to them in their lives. This makes it all the more difficult when they die, yet remain trapped in the digital system, as a recent article by the New York Times reports. As one interviewee explains:
The service is telling you to reconnect with someone you can’t. If it’s someone that has passed away recently enough, it smarts.
Beyond the trouble of dealing with a recent loss and associated longing is the challenging presentation of the concept that, like the deceased, your life too is limited.
The terrifying underlying realization might just be that perhaps we are wasting our time. In the face of death, is there room to voyeuristically sift through what amounts to a celebration of the self? As we gorge in the spectacular distraction presented by Facebook’s persistent status updates, photo albums and wall posts, are we reaching any kind of realization, besides what our college roommate ate for lunch?
Yet, maybe the presence of the dead on Facebook can have a positive effect, can remind us of our own mortality and push us to move to our full potential and to live better. As Gehlek Rimpoche writes in the Summer 2004 issue of Tricycle:
…this life is wonderful, but there are limitations. Before those limitations take over, achieve what you want to achieve. Do something while you are able to. Right now everything is wonderful, enjoyable, but that well being is temporary. It could change at any minute. Anything can go wrong at any moment.
This talk of death or impermanence is not meant to make you afraid. The whole purpose of it is for you to have compassion for yourself. And travel well.