Social media and social networking have brought me to a place where I just watched a friend die on FB. Not literally, of course, but pretty damn close. I was virtually inside her hospital room as recently as a few weeks before her last breath. I saw her breathing apparatus and the scooter that was needed to keep her mobile. I knew within an hour or two of her death, and even more ghoulishly, had been watching it approach for weeks.
This is access beyond the boundaries of our friendship. I would not have dared IRL to ask for the information that I have about her fear, pain, breathing, medication and financial status. This is access out of proportion with the celebrity-obsessed newsworthy nature of her death. Hers would not have been a public death; the paparazzi were not staked out at the hospital doors. In their stead, her mother, brother, friends and business partners covered the sudden illness and the drama of her failed attempts to arrest the progress of a fatal disease.
I have wept at their very real anguish. I watched her friends use the past tense to refer to her while she was clinging to life support and cringed at her family's terse reminder that she was still alive, all while opening a Facebook event page for a celebration of her life. Death was nearby, but not yet settled in. Death in real-time.
I do, however, need a social media cleansing now. A social media confessional booth. An electronic smudging. I am diminished by the experience and shamed in ways that elude my understanding. Did I lose sight of the line between caring concern and prurient interest? Or have I just been given a deeper experience of someone whose life crossed mine in a way that might otherwise have left lighter footprints?
And the ghost that haunts my facebook feed today is large and growing in size and density. The spectre of photos, playlists and anecdotes are posthumously deepening my connection, creating new memories and scaring the bejeezus out of me.
Someone pass me the sage. Is there an app for that?