When a Facebook Friend Dies, What Do You Post?

I don’t post on Facebook much, even though the marketing gods have decreed that you’re supposed to post at least once a day to keep your theoretical readership engaged. I’ll admit I don’t post very often for two main reasons: most of the things I’m thinking at any given moment are either so mundane I assume no one will care, or I’m thinking things I don’t want anyone to know I’m thinking.

An example of the latter:

Today, I learned via Facebook that one of my Facebook friends died in a mountain climbing accident yesterday. The initial post was in Spanish, so at first I thought I’d translated it wrong because I’m not very good at Spanish yet (I’m in the process of learning). Then I thought it was a morbid, unfunny joke because literally the day before he posted a picture of his mountain climbing equipment with the caption, “Wish me luck!” I went to his Facebook page, and sure enough there were dozens of RIP posts, so damn, he really did die. Jesus, poor guy.

I was going to post my own condolences when I realized that I could not for the life me remember how I knew him in real life.

I know we served in the military together, and I recall congratulating him on his move to Washington State for an Air Force-sponsored internship with Boeing (I think) and the shadows of other conversations we had, but I can’t remember which base we were stationed at together, what program we worked on, or how we knew each other.

So what would I have posted? “RIP – You looked like a really awesome, stand-up guy on Facebook, full of life based on the pics you posted, and caring and considerate in the way you often liked my posts. You will be missed (on Facebook).”

Is this how we live now? Do all these shallow connections we now have with people make us shallow ourselves? Does the act of writing this blog post mean that I’m making his death all about me by reducing him to an abstract catalyst for self-reflection rather than the flesh-and-blood person with real family and real friends that he actually was? Kinda feels like it.

And that’s why I don’t post much on Facebook.


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