Monday, November 14, 2011

Alpha & Omega

Jet Trail, 2006

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to exchange a few e-mails with a friend regarding the disappointing state of an industry in which we both once worked and about which we continue to care a lot. (We’re both crazy optimists, too, in our belief that there are solutions to this industry’s problems if someone would just listen to us.)
Toward the end of our conversation my friend noted that her daughter has decided to pursue a career in the same industry. “How’s that for faith in the future?” she wrote.
As parents, there are many things that can give us reason to have pride in our children. A lot of it's vanity, I know, and it’s no mystery that one of the reasons we look at our children as such beautiful beings is because, well,  they look like us.  
But there is perhaps no greater pleasure than when we see something in our children that reflects a deeper transmission of the better parts of our own minds and souls. These are the moments that give us special hope and pride.
This weekend I also had one of those modern experiences that I couldn't have had until a few years ago. Facebook reminded me that Sunday was the birthday of my friend Hal.
I like this feature. Remembering people's birthdays on Facebook may be a superficial gesture. But for one, before Facebook you probably had no idea when most of your friends' birthdays were. And two, until Facebook develops an a feature that writes your birthdays notes for you, a quick greeting and thought are still personal expressions, no matter how prompted.
The only problem with this particular birthday reminder is that my friend Hal died last summer.
This modern world of social media raises many interesting questions. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that you can have, rekindle and enjoy deep, soul mate-like friendships with people you haven't heard from in years, who are connected to you only because they are the friend of a friend or who, in any event, you've never actually met in "real space."
But I have been wondering for a while what happens when these people go away? Hal died last summer. I'm sure his widow and children have far more serious matters to deal with than worrying about Hal's Facebook page. But until they do, Hal lives on, or at least continues to have birthdays in the virtual world.
There was a interesting little conversation yesterday among friends at my Facebook page about this. A few clarified Facebook’s protocols for dealing with such cases. (Yes, there is a Facebook protocol for family members who wish to terminate or memorialize a Facebook page.) Some like the idea of having a page and an annual birthday reminder for the deceased. I suppose it’s like having a virtual cemetery plot to visit for those who like to do such things. Some found it a little creepy.
Whatever the case, I do wonder what happens when our online friends experience illness, accidents or death. Do they just not show up one day and we don’t know whether they’ve died or just thrown us over for a classier group of friends? If it’s the former, do we ever get to say goodbye?
I guess I’d better start thinking about producing a goodbye video to stick up on YouTube for when my time comes (not any time soon, I trust). Maybe it’s the Southernness in me, but it just seems rude to disappear without telling anyone.   

1 comment:

  1. Haha! It is an odd phenomenon, isn't it? After I go, I guess I hope people still raise a glass and enjoy it all for me.