I befriend someone I don’t know in Facebook who happened to have passed away 3 years ago.
The account itself, I could say, is restlessly active almost everyday. ‘She’ shares information from all pages as much as possible. Dog videos, articles about dangerous food products, recipe dishes, viral stories about poor individuals someone met on the streets, or simply postings of inspirational quotes or messages with religious content. Some happen to be hoaxes, some are simply 15-minutes-of-fame intermezzos, but quite a few contain solid facts. These postings frequently fill up my news feed, and most of the time, I simply scroll them through and look at other stuff.
This Valentine’s day, I saw a video made in tribute of her.
Initially, I thought it was just a joke. I thought it could be just a random website giving you funny assessment of some algorithm-based sorts (imagine ‘Be Like Bill’ in the form of a make-believe obituary). It says “in memorial of (name undisclosed)”, with pictures of her smiling, of her drinking cocktail, of her standing beside a swimming pool. It was not until I clicked through her profile – after viewing through condolence-themed posts by her friends and relatives – that I realized this person was killed in a car accident 3 years ago.
And her account remains ‘alive’ up to now, sharing all the stuff that still continue to pop out as of today.
Up to now, I can’t comment anything about it. I’m not scared of the possibility that our Facebook accounts will continue to exist even after our lives end; I’m just left wondering how the person, behind the scene, continues to preserve all the remaining memories of their deceased beloved ones, as though one part of her soul remained existing within the social media. And it still goes on, all after the three years. I can’t imagine how that person, notwithstanding his or her motive, wakes up everyday, only to become ‘her’ surrogate on Facebook, and fills up the news feed with all the stuff he or she finds interesting. I can’t imagine how strong his or her mentality is already shaped (I hope I’m using the correct description), while facing up to the reality that she is physically gone, all the while maintaining her existence in the virtual world.
Throughout my lifetime, I have heard, and witnessed, stories of losses and sadness. A close friend of mine lost her mother last year, and she keeps her ‘mother’ alive on her Whatsapp profile. Another acquaintance lost his father, while he is yet to complete his university studies. Two of my high school friends lost their younger siblings, one of whom I happened to know. And now, this person – whom I added three and a half years ago, the time when I simply confirmed anybody’s friend requests, literally – is now a virtual Schrodinger’s cat.
It brings me to another philosophical question. With virtual and real identities becoming increasingly disparate (especially with the increasing ability of artificial-intelligence), will this story become a common reality in the distant future? Is this what transhumanists will refer to as ‘immortality’, or probably a ‘brain-in-a-vat’ phenomenon?