When you die the people who love you, acquaintances, old high school friends, and your enemies will storm your Social Media. I know this because two years ago my sister stood from her jigsaw puzzle, walked to the kitchen, poured a glass of water and collapsed from heart failure. Within 48 hours she was on life support. A week later her death went viral. Not in a Kanye way. Viral in a ‘I had no idea how loved she was and how many lives her existence had touched’ way. The preferable way.
I am Facebook averse (it is not good for my self-esteem and faulty brain wiring) and even I went there. To see her face, sift for videos and to hear her voice. To see her animated. We all did. As I scrolled I understood where this engine of love had gained its momentum. She was sweet, funny, sharp as a tack. She bantered like nobody’s business. She was charming and she was raw.
As a back-of-the-pack triathlete she was inspiring. Honest about wars waged with weight, body image, self-esteem deficits and mental health monsters. We watched her carry them into the water where they calmed, charge out on the bike where they belted at her and strap them onto her back while she ran. People saw her and set down their bag of chips, put the lid back on the ice-cream, tied their excuses up in a bow and shoved them in the bottom draw. Then they got up off the couch.
I saw wreaths of words laid at her Facebook page. Testimonies of her impact on lives. To the fact that when things got tough, on the race course or in life, it was her voice people heard. Her face that kept them from crawling back to the couch and encouraged one more step. And another and another - until the race was done. She carried them on the back of her honesty to the finish line.
I can tell you with certainty, because she was mine, that my sister was not trying to live an inspiring life. Most days she was doing her best to stay off the couch, living inside a paper thin skin with demons pounding in her head. She was an open wound with gunk oozing from the broken parts of her brain.
This, too, is visible on her Social Media. Posts that bleed a little too much. Debris scattered where the wounds have opened onto the screen. When I see them I visualise her at the pearly gates sitting next to Saint Peter on a stone step. Charmingly debating the merits of reincarnation. Expressing with well reasoned arguments her case for returning momentarily to press delete. I see him laughing at her cleverness, appreciating her position and over time being worn down by her determination. As we all were. For now, Peter’s answer remains a firm no.
Journaling out loud
We imagine our best friend, husband or grown children finding our private journals after we’re gone and cringe. Social media isn’t a journal. When you hit enter we can all read it. When you are no longer here we will be compelled to. In this world your posts are your legacy.
When I see the Facebook pages of those who have died too young I feel sad that they are frozen in mainframe time without the wisdom a longer life would have gifted (or cursed) them with. The same wisdom I see emerging from their friends who have already lost one too young.
I wince when I see older people, who should know better, firing shots across their digital bow. Passive-aggressive slurs designed for a particular person, outright family brawls played out for all to see. When the nastiness flies I think, “You’re going to regret that. Soon one of you will be dead”.
It cannot be taken back. It will always make you very sad. I know this because when my sister poured her last glass of water I had barely spoken to her in three years. My last words to her were a cutting Facebook message issued from a deep wound, designed to tear at pieces of her heart. I have deleted it from my side because it breaks me a little more each time it gets caught in the corner of my eye. When I see my brother-in-law on her Facebook I know it is still there. I resist the urge to leap across the table and remove it for good. A little poisonous package of pain. It tarnishes the love contained in the grief. A fleck that itches and scratches and cannot be undone.
Take a breath
Now, when my fingers are poised on the keyboard, I imagine the anthropologists and archaeologists of the future. I see them wandering around in the virtual clouds, data recovery specialists, dressed in hazmat suits sifting through our toxic waste while wondering what the fuck was up with Kanye. I watch them pulling out bits and bytes of me and deciding who I am, determining my legacy. My backspace button is worn to ‘space’ from use. It reminds me to let things breathe before I press enter.
When I hear complaints about people posting too many pictures of their kids or dog. Or too many memes. I think “you have that very wrong”. When they drop dead their children will know they were cherished and everyone will know to take care of the dog. There will be frowning and harsh judgement if anyone sends it to the pound. In the midst of tears and snot pouring onto keyboards laughter will echo at remembered joy brought by silly memes. That is a legacy worth having.
As I sit here carving out more time to write for Steemit I am struck by the need to pay the rent and the temptation to post half baked wads of trollop. I battle this at least once a week. Most often when I realise that two weeks have passed since I last resolved to post once a week and cannot think of a single thing worth saying.
It is easy to be virtuous from the top of the hill. Challenging when sliding into the slums. This is why my country is populated by descendants of people who stole some bread. When payment for posts on Steemit is thrown into the mix, the bank balance is low and you need to buy groceries there is an urge to shove your hand in the Baker’s window and grab at what you can.
When this happens I sit quietly at my desk, light a candle (should the power be cut off) and see those scientists in their hazmats rifling through my digital life. I remember that what my son has to read among his snot is more important than the dollar sign next to it.
I like to imagine that he will be terribly grief stricken rather than glad to be rid of me, therefor driven to protect my good name. I imagine him grateful that I’ve saved him the trouble of finding that God awful long password. The many attempts of entering it correctly. And the lesson that he cannot edit or delete a single thing here because it is etched into the eternity of the blockchain. I imagine him silently thanking me through his tears for not posting half baked wads of trollop. Then I shut down my computer, go for a walk and try to dislodge the flecks of dust caught in my eye.
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