The Strange Immortality of Facebook

A couple of years ago I met a guy on Facebook named Bob Forsythe. Bob sent me a friend request shortly after a mutual friend blew up at us both. I did not know him before that. Since then, we’ve shared various links and amusing photos that appealed to our mutual dark senses of humor, and had countless conversations about the two topics people say you should never talk about: religion and politics. We didn’t agree much, but we enjoyed each other’s points of view.

A little over a month ago, I realized it had been a few days since I’d heard from Bob. I went to his Facebook page and found a bunch of posts from other people all saying things like ‘Rest In Peace’. It turns out that Bob had shot himself. I didn’t really have any friends in common with him because he lives in Colorado and I don’t. And our one friend we did have in common, I hadn’t talked to since our falling out. Right around the time I was reading Bob’s page, a friend of Bob’s got in touch with me and told me what happened.

I had never met Bob in person or talked to him on the phone. Our entire friendship existed on Facebook. And yet, given the content and quantity of our talks, I would consider him a good friend. And now he’s gone. Only, on Facebook, he isn’t.

I was prepared for the inevitable memorial page. I’ve enjoyed learning more about Bob and who he was to so many people. What I wasn’t prepared for was the Avengers. The only game I play on Facebook is the Avengers game. Bob played it also. In the game, if you have Facebook friends who also play the game, you can use their characters during battles even if they aren’t online. They are back up. And though Bob has been gone for over a month, his character continues to help out as I battle various super-villains on Facebook.

But that wasn’t all. As anyone who uses Facebook knows, when you click ‘like’ on a company’s page, you give them permission to use your name in advertisements. And so I get things like the image below when I log into Facebook. Bob may be dead, but his name is still selling the pages he liked.

It’s occurred to me that Facebook creates a sort of immortality that is almost entirely accidental. Almost no one updates their Facebook page thinking that what they post might be the largest source of material open to the public about your life. I miss my conversations with Bob, but through his passing,  a couple of friends of his have sent me friend requests. As far as I can tell from talking to them, Bob was the same online as he was offline. So sure, Facebook might not intentionally be your legacy, but it just might be an accurate one.

– Jack Cameron


2 thoughts on “The Strange Immortality of Facebook

  1. Hi Jack,
    I am Bob Forsythe’s mom, Rita. Reading this made me feel a little better. I wish you could have met him in person too. He was a wonderful person and I could not have been prouder of him.

  2. Jack,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and articulating what I was vaguely thinking about Facebook imortality. You are a great writer. I miss the political and religeous discussions Bob and I once had. He was a thoughtful debater and stood by what he believed, much like you. Thanks again.

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