Don't tweet about me when I die. Don't post weepy tributes on Facebook and tag all my friends. Don't Instagram a picture of us together, laughing and carrying on, in a throwback Thursday to my waking life. I'm already dead, dammit. Let me rest in peace without your #RIP.
While I was away at college, a girl from my hometown died in a car accident. I didn't know her, but I knew her death was some horrible, senseless shit—the type of shit that's happened a million times to a million high schoolers and will happen a million times more before Google figures out how to make accident-proof cars. I'd buried family before and I'd felt grief, but when I opened my laptop and got word that this total stranger was gone, I slumped back in my chair. The sorrow throbbed forth in the dull glow of my browser, which was open to the "In memory of…" Facebook group that I'd just been invited to join.
I don't remember if I accepted the invitation to that group, or even if this was my first encounter with human mortality on Facebook. But as I browsed through the comments on the group wall—the teary outpourings, the inside jokes, the saccharine lyrics—I realized that, thanks to social media, no one could "just die" anymore, and no one would ever be insulated from piercing grief. Death had become a matter of likes and favorites, just like life.
That's some heady shit and I think I believe most of it. But let's cut the navel-gazing and get to the good shit: Selfishness! Branding! The unbearable irrelevance of post-modern Internet citizenship! All three, parts to my sum, which is simple. I want to die offline, and once I'm dead, I want to stay that way.
Let's start with narcissism. I have it. I am it. I "writ"e for a living, after all. As such, I launch tweets like validation-seeking missiles. Look at me! Read my piece! Aren't I clever? For a self-loving loudmouth like me, death is a morbid dream because it puts me in the spotlight—I'm finally trending!—but it's also an emotional nightmare because I can't claim it as my own since I am dead. So, as a final favor to me, just let me have that shit. Don't make it about you. Don’t hijack my life's hasthag with a sepia-toned Instagram illustrating how much you miss me. Miss me with your hearts, motherfuckers, not your thumbs.
There's no 4G in heaven or hell or wherever we go after the proverbial battery hits 0%.
And, about that 'Gram, quit posturing on my day of rest. There's #nofilter for genuine grief. It doesn't use the 100 emoji. It doesn't fastidiously Google that verse from Billy Joel's "Only the Good Die Young" to squeeze mournful double-taps out of its sorrow-ripened followers. (By the way, that entire song is about trying to bang a fucking virgin. False sincerity for ulterior gain is its entire premise.) My death is not your chance to flex your cultural awareness, or deploy your wit, or underscore your callousness. If I find out you leveraged my passing to cultivate your Facebook audience, I'll haunt your smartphone until the day you get Google Glass. Then, I'll haunt the shit out of that too, you fucking loser. #Build your #brand with #fam on your own time. You have plenty of it, because you're still alive.
Now, you're probably thinking to yourself, "Damn, self, Dave is fucking delusional if he thinks anyone is gonna tweet about him lol." Well, fine. You're the hero Gotham deserves and I commend you. But when that girl died back home, her Facebook wall became a grotesque parody of the the online human condition. People who didn't know her posted heartfelt messages about her passing. I know for a fact that they didn't know her because their posts often began with "I didn’t know you, but…" You've seen those posts. You've seen these profiles. She may be smiling in the photo, but she can't read the messages. The psycho anthropological morass is staggering, but I've had to fight the impulse not to post something similar myself. And I'm betting you have too.
At the time, it seems like the Right Thing to Do™. Back in college, I almost did it before I realizing that impulse was motivated by selfishness, not grief. I wanted people to remember me remembering her. I wanted to affirm that I was alive by confirming that she was dead. I wanted to cement my digital #relevance as a bulwark against my IRL frailty. But I can't, and no matter how many fire tweets you get off before the Big Sleep, neither can you.
There's no 4G in heaven or hell or wherever we go after the proverbial battery hits 0%. Hopefully, I'll come to terms with it someday. We all have to, I guess. But I don't think I'll ever accept the fact that after I'm gone, the people I love, or like, or even hate, will waste time contextualizing my life. That's a chasm. The funeral parlor can stay fully booked forever on Facebook and the casket can stay open twice that long. It's eerie. It's unnatural. It's the complete opposite of closure.
That's why I don't want you to tweet for me. I'll be dead, but you'll be alive. Don't sit around. Be #relevant while you can. Also, feel free to tweet this piece with the hashtag #twitterdeep. I'm still alive for the moment and I need the hits.
Illustration by Carrie Dennis
Dave Infante is a writer living in New York City. He's totally fine, you guys. Seriously, don't worry about him. Read more of his work on Thrillist and follow him on Twitter while he's still breathing.