We live in a strange time. Memory, at one time laying at a tenuous crossroads between personal recollection and the scraps of photos and newspaper clippings (with perhaps a home video or two), is now doggedly persistent. It’s as if we’re trying to harden Dali’s melting clocks – the Internet tends to not allow things, and particularly people, to fade away. Where photos once existed by the dozens, fading in an album tucked away in a closet, they now exist in the hundreds, maybe thousands, in file types that never fade.
Facebook is maybe the oddest of all, when considered with mortality. It’s as if that page becomes a second life – you set sail for greener pastures, but the Facebook page stays alive, like an orphaned part of yourself that now has no caretaker. And so, Facebook pages of those departed become like a piece of the person that lives on, in a much more real and tangible way than the old movie cliches. It becomes a shrine to their memory, except that sounds ridiculous, because it’s Facebook. This Internet stuff all seems too new to take so seriously – it’s an odd social transition being undertaken, to figure out what place the Internet really should have in life and in death.
As we grope in the dark for those answers, there’s no reason to ignore the Internet’s, and Facebook’s, powerful capability to augment our memories. This year, the world lost several people beloved by many. With Facebook quietly trying to find its place when it comes to death – something that will become an odd, sometimes perverse, and very real issue for the company in the future – it’s interesting to take a look at how, or if, the memories of those beloved by the public live on in this new era.
The legendary frontman of the Velvet Underground passed away this year from liver disease, but his page is still being regularly updated. Fans can still see pictures, and there are regular posts about new events, interviews, and features relating to Reed’s work. As those closest to Reed keep making his undeniable impact on music heard, fans can follow along while listening to Reed’s discography thanks to a Spotify link on the page.
Sometimes acerbic, always witty, and undeniably passionate, Roger Ebert did his part to turn movie criticism into an art form in and of itself. Fans of Ebert (and that’s how you know you’ve had a successful career as a movie critic), can look to his page, which features regular updates from his wife, Chaz Ebert, largely about his website, rogerebert.com, where a cadre of new critics have taken up Ebert’s mantle.
The former lead of The Sopranos passed away from a heart attack earlier this year at age 51. After an outpouring of tributes, his page was taken down, leaving only an information page about the actor. A running memorial page ran by fans has been created, where fans can check out old pictures and remember Gandolfini and his work on The Sopranos.
Wallace, perhaps best known for voicing Mrs. Krabappel on The Simpsons, passed away at age 70 this year after a decades-long fight with breast cancer. Her fan page, which was once run by Wallace herself, still exists, and fans can leave messages and look at photos of the actress and her animated alter ego.
Scores of fan pages in memory of Walker have popped up since his untimely death in late November, but his official page is still up and running. The new posts now focus mostly on Walker’s charitable pursuits that he began before he passed away. Fans can stay current on how his legacy is evolving, while remembering the actor and his work on and off screen.
Lee Thompson Young
The former Disney star tragically took his own life this year at age 29. His cousin, Jayvonte, is running a memorial page for Young, which is filled with pictures of the actor with family and memorial posts from family, friends, and fans alike.
Monteith, best known for his work on Glee, passed away this year at age 31 from a drug overdose. His official fan page had been in limbo since mid-2012, because it had become difficult-to-impossible to moderate. Since his passing, a fan page called Cory Monteith Daily has been serving as a forum where people can remember Monteith and his work, while learning more information about the dangers of addiction.
Hagman actually passed away in late November of last year, after a battle with leukemia. Famous for being the J.R. in ‘Who shot J.R.?,’ the Dallas star has an official page still running, with memories from those closest to him and old pictures and videos of Hagman throughout the years.
There are only a handful of people with the stature of Mandela in the course of history. His life mattered in ways most don’t dare to dream about – a wellspring of inspiration. Quotes from the fallen former president of South Africa and retrospectives dot the official Facebook page for Mandela, one that will certainly viewed for many, many years to come.