Staying on the topic of the previous post – and I resist using the phrase ‘popular demand’ – I have noticed how Facebook has changed the way we respond to death.
I am perhaps alone here, but I find the torrent of RIPs slightly disturbing and completely unfathomable. Not only because of the incongruity with our culture – aren’t we (the believers among us, that is) supposed to believe in reincarnation? The concept of a soul resting in peace could roughly equate to moksha, which can only be achieved by ridding yourself of all worldly desires through impeccable karma and some hardcore meditation. As opposed to Facebook comments reaching critical mass.
But more significantly, the comments are a bit unsettling because on a public forum, they’re always addressed to the deceased. It’s almost as if the commenters believe they can still be read by the soul resting in peace (which would certainly disturb the peace, hence absurd again.)
It’s somewhat similar to people wishing their mothers on the designated days with posts on their own Facebook walls. Is it some sort of need for attention, an exhibition of the adopted values of your virtual self, an overblown idea of your own importance, or just a thoughtless, unfiltered pissing of whatever crosses your mind?
In perhaps every culture, there’s a shitload of drama that follows death. But almost every act is meant to serve an original purpose, however distorted it may have become over centuries. It is an attempt to console and rehabilitate the bereaved, and to honour the departed (and sometimes, to make a few bucks for the old god-peddlers.) I fail to see how the RIPs contribute to any such productive cause.
If the objective is to spread the news and let people know you cared, I would understand a post on your wall, illustrating the same. If it is to console the people who actually cared, an email or a message would be far more useful. If it is to therapeutically write to the deceased, a private letter or journal entry would seem appropriate.
But RIP is not a message of condolence to family and friends; it’s not a tribute or an anecdote. It doesn’t have the dignity of someone remembering the moments spent with a loved one. Hell, it’s not even a word. And it’s almost always offered by people who would barely be classified as friends; ones who would not really bother to do anything more than mumble a meaningless abbreviation. Friends who just remembered the recently dead had existed at all, and will forget it as soon as they get the next notification from fuckville.
Which gives me an idea for a little experiment. If I can convince a couple of people to write RIP on my wall, will it open the floodgates? Will my legions of friends express their wish to see me eternally calcified? Will they be shocked to see me years later at some party? Will they even remember?