Arguing with Social Media about Your Demise by Thomas O’Connell

Facebook doesn’t seem to know that you’re dead; it wants me to wish you a happy birthday.

Google knows you’re dead. When I search your name, the third hit is your obituary. The first two results are for an Italian restaurant in Dayton, Ohio, which shares your name. According to their website, I can order jars of their Original Sauce online.

Facebook wants me to know that you like Josh Groban. Who knows, perhaps you still do. Theologically, I cannot say that you don’t. But Facebook could never know how much you loved that first Def Leppard record. You ordered it from the Columbia House Record Club, which I mocked you for joining until you surprised me with Darkness at the Edge of Town for my birthday and I felt like a jerk.

Facebook knows you like Target, or so they tell me. They seem to want me to like the chain store too, just because you clicked through once hoping it might mean coupons for diapers. What Facebook doesn’t know is that your daughter now lives with your sister in Norwalk.

Facebook doesn’t appear to know about those lost years between our high school graduation and the arrival of social media – when we reconnected. I don’t know much about those years for you either.

The photographs are still up, of snowy days in your backyard and a trip to an aquarium, so many of your little girl, you and your short hair. Some of your other friends have wished you happy birthday – “in heaven” or “to my angel friend.” I won’t post anything, but you already know that. Perhaps I will pull out my Springsteen albums, though I’m pretty sure I no longer own them. I bet they’re up on Spotify. I wonder if Spotify knows who you are?


The story behind the story:

Yep, this piece came about from an actual Facebook notification I received one morning. As the optimistic youthfulness that was FB ages, so do my ‘friends’ and I. it should be no surprise that some would leave us, either through de-activating their accounts or passing away. Facebook’s ignorance of my friends’ passings gave me a moment of, dare I say, superiority over the social media giant, “ha, so much you know!” But, this also started me thinking about the other theme of this piece, the idea of how much FB, as well as Google or Spotify or any other site that employs cookies, actually does know about us – how much we share. So, thinking about mortality and privacy led me to jot down my thoughts and concerns about our relationships with technology and loved ones and how both leave us feeling like we are missing something.

A librarian, as well as three time Pushcart Prize nominee, Thomas O’Connell’s poetry and short fiction has appeared in Hobart, Blink-Ink, Jellyfish Review, and The Los Angeles Review, as well as other print and online journals.

“Arguing with Social Media about Your Demise” was first published in Freezeray Poetry.

Header Photo by Timothy Hales Bennett on Unsplash

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: