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11 May 2013

If You Died Today, Could Facebook Accurately Sum Up Your Life?

Self-portrait by Vincent Van Gogh
/ Image part of public domain
Recently, over coffee, my friend and I talked about a young man who suddenly died. We do not know the young man personally but my friend said that he stumbled upon the young man’s Facebook account.  My friend said that he viewed his profile, his posts and photos and just based on those, my friend summed up the young man’s life.  I told my friend, who is known for being unapologetically blunt, that his summation was quite unfair.  Certainly, there is more to the young man than his Facebook photos and posts.  “Yes,” my friend said, “but he chose to put his posts and photos in public so that meant he wanted people to see that side of him.  If he wanted privacy, he would have posted only generic things.  Now, everyone knows what kind of music he liked, what he thought about this and that, how he responded to his detractors, and what kind of things turned him on. The saddest part of it is he has passed away and he cannot defend himself or delete his old photos and posts.”

In the age of social networking and unpredictable viral videos on YouTube that can turn a “nobody” into an instant celebrity, anyone can be famous for fifteen minutes as Andy Warhol put it.  Alternatively, everyone can also be famous to fifteen people according to the Scottish artist Momus. 

Our posts, pictures, videos and the things that we “like” on Facebook may end up being the windows to our short existence, especially if these posts are displayed for the public to see.  Anyone can sum up our existence based only on our several posts and photos.  Facebook is a great medium to keep in touch with friends and family members, strengthen bonds, share useful information and even in some cases, help people in need or support and promote a social cause for the benefit of disenfranchised individuals.  On the other hand, Facebook can also be a medium to destroy a person’s reputation and weaken bonds between family members and friends. 

The things we post in Facebook is not entirely true, if they were, they may only be true at a certain time.  We post how sad we are today, but it does not mean we are perennially depressed.  Our updates are just snapshots of our lives but our lives are complicated and people change, sometimes totally.  Facebook cannot capture the details of our existence, much less our own personal purpose in life. 

All of this made me wonder. If I died today, would I be happy about the things that I posted on Facebook? Would I be still proud of all my tweets?  If I did not have time to delete embarrassing posts and compromising photos, would it be all right for me if people make false assumptions about my life?  Perhaps, it would be all right if I were a celebrity, but I am an ordinary bloke.  Who would defend me in case some random Facebook visitor lambast me after I am dead and buried.  Yes, we have friends who know us well, but will that be enough?  How about you? If you died today, would you be proud of your last Facebook update?

Oops, time to go, I got to delete some “scandalous” pictures.

NOTE: The other contributing writers and members of this blog do not necessarily share the opinions of the writer of this article. (Hindi nangangahulugan na sang-ayon ang mga ibang manunulat at miyembro ng blog na ito sa mga opiniyon ng may akda ng sanaysay na ito.)

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