Life on the Other Side of Sex, Drugs, and Rock and Roll
I wasn’t too excited when Facebook launched “On This Day,” which they describe as “a new way to look back” and I describe as “an irritating souvenir of every mistake I’ve made since 2008.” My first thought when it was introduced was that I needed to brace myself for the anniversaries of awards shows, occasions upon which I invariably post dozens of trifling observations. I knew I’d have cringe-inducing memories with hundreds of people, many of whom blocked me during the first 20 minutes of the Golden Globes, Oscars, Emmys and the Grammy Awards.
On Monday, my lack of enthusiasm about “On This Day” became active dread. I was already devastated by the losses of the last three weeks and the jarring new tradition of finding out about them via Facebook when “On This Day” reminded me that my Dad’s best friend had died exactly six years ago. On that day I first considered deactivating my Facebook acount.
In the surreal wake of all of the recent deaths, the mourning on Facebook has been wall-to-wall. My friends posted initially about the people who died, and as the losses continued, they posted about aging, mortality, and the absolute certainty that as we get older, the losses will become more frequent. My own posts were less weighty. I defaulted to humor, or attempted it, anyway, because, you know, life. It’s tough, and I’m better at coping if I can find reasons to laugh. Facebook has made that easier. Unfortunately, I’m also better at coping if I keep death compartmentalized, and Facebook has made that impossible. After David Bowie died, but before Buffin passed away, I decided to stay away from Facebook.
Until I took a break from it, I didn’t fully understand how important Facebook had become for me. I knew going into my self-imposed exile that without Slots of Vegas and Dogspotting it would be tough to find ways to avoid writing, but I had no idea how untethered and out of sorts I’d feel. I missed my friends, even the ones I’m not sure I actually know, and I felt utterly alone.
I persevered, though — I fought through the discomfort — and for an entire two hours on January 20, 2016, my Facebook account was inactive. Then I logged back on, and discovered that Glenn Frey had died.
Rather than wallow online, I called Ellyn. It was the right thing to do, and not because we talked in real life, person-to-person, heart-to heart. It was the right thing to do because we laughed harder than we’ve laughed since Lemmy passed away.
She was sad about Glenn and completelely gutted by the knowledge that at some point the guys in Led Zeppelin would die. Thanks to AT&T Wireless and their miserable service, I misunderstood. I thought she had said Dokken. (“Dokken?,” she asked, slightly hysterical. “When I said I’d be ruined by the loss of any member of the band — the band that defined me and changed my life — you thought I was talking about Dokken?)”
Feeling better, I went back on Facebook. In the spirit of celebrating life, I checked my birthday feed. It included the birthday of a friend who’d died.
In addition to making shitloads of money, the people of Facebook want to make the world a better place. I know this because I keep up with these things, and they’ve issued a couple hundred press releases on the subject. They want us to be happy, and I’d like to help them in their mission.
I emailed some ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org, but on the off chance that my email doesn’t make it to Mark, I’m hoping that one of my many friends with direct access to him will pass on the following suggestions:
1. You know everything about us, including whether or not we’re currently alive. Please remove people who’ve died from the birthday reminders. More than one of us have landed on a Facebook page to leave a cheery message for a long lost acquantance only to discover that the acquaintance is deceased, and this is not the way anyone wants to receive that kind of news. Further, some of us have from time to time forgotten that the would-be-celebrant has exited this mortal coil. This both reignites grief and demonstrates that our memory has dimished, and, as such, so has our time on this earth.
3. If the DMV can sort out a way to indicate organ donor status on a driver’s license, you can figure out how to indicate whether or not we believe in the afterlife. Unless we’re talking about dogs, in which case I’m comforted by the warm embrace of the the concept of Heaven, I, for one, am not a believer. As such, I would rest much more peacefully if there was a mechanism available to let people know upon my demise that while appreciated, posthumous messages are unnecessary, as I won’t be checking Facebook.
4. Which reminds me: please, please, block people from posting The Rainbow Bridge.
5.You’re uniquely positioned to educate vast segments of the global population on the etiquette of mourning. As a means of correction, I would suggest that when an artist, author, actor, or musician dies, you suspend the posting priveleges of anyone who writes “Although I mourn the loss of Glenn Frey, I have always hated the Eagles and never understood how anyone could like them,” or “I’m less surprised by the news that Scott Weiland is dead than I am by the reports that Keith Richards is still living.” Statements such as these are never appropriate.
6. Please add a guide to your FAQ which would help older people navigate the baffling world of online semantics. This would be strictly a mitzvah; at least one of your users was forced to endure her daughter’s endless ribbing after she used an abbreviation incorrectly. (“I was so sad to hear that Celine’s 59 year old brother died shortly after her husband passed away. So tragic. My heart goes out to the family. LOL, Mom.”)
7. Finally, and I know this one is easy, for those of us over 40, please add the option to tick “I’m Sorry for Your Loss” to the current lineup of “Like” “Comment” and “Share.” It would be both efficient and kind. It’s far too hard to find the words to adequately express sympathy, and none of us want to hit “Like” when a friend posts about the loss of someone they love. Or a guy from the Eagles.
Kidding! I’m just kidding. I have a deadline, and if I’m gonna ignore it, I gotta frontload the jokes and get back on Facebook. It’s been six hours since I last logged on, and if the recent past is any indication, there’s more bad news waiting. I can only hope it won’t be about Dokken.
Lots of love to everyone, or (as someone’s mother would write), LOL.
*No disrespect to Dokken or to anyone who loves Dokken or to anyone who sounds like or dresses like or has hair like Dokken.