A friend of mine from college passed away this week, after a long struggle with cancer. Hers was a sad passing (she was way too young) and a happy one (she’s free from pain now). I have many fun memories of her, and though I hadn’t seen her in 8 years, we kept in touch somewhat over Facebook.
She’s one of my first acquaintances to pass away in The Facebook Era, and she embraced the technology. She shared her struggles with her 700 Facebook friends, and she posted pictures of herself as the treatments took her hair and the cancer took her vitality. Her Wall was full of her cheerfulness in the face of adversity. Her Wall has also been covered with prayers and well-wishes for months, giving us all insight into just how many lives this woman has touched.
I have witnessed closer friends suffer from similar diseases, but never from the same vantage point as Facebook offered.
Let me step back for a moment to say that this is not a pity post.
The truth is, without Facebook, I never would have known what my friend was going through—it probably would have been months before I found out about her passing at all, so slowly does the grapevine spread news among long-disbanded circles of friends.
Without Facebook, I would have very little ongoing contact with or cognizance of hundreds of people about whom I genuinely care and am interested.
With Facebook, I’m able to at least casually follow their lives and thoughts, their ups and downs, and maintain a bit of connection with them. Sometimes that connection deepens as circumstances of life change—but I would only know about those changes because they are shared on the social network.
I’m not trying to make Mark Zuckerberg out to be a seer (an honor I’ve already bestowed on Steve Jobs), but I can envision heaven working very similarly. We’ll have much, much larger networks of people we love and care about, and I hope we’ll constantly be at least passively aware of each other. Whether that is made possible through some kind of technology, spiritual communication, or expanded consciousness, I’m not sure, but I love the idea that Facebook could be giving us a glimpse into heavenly networks of relationships.
I also love the idea that our Father in Heaven can be aware of the lives and prayers of all of His children simultaneously, and have often wondered how (and even if) it is possible. Thinking of my prayers as Wall posts in the heavenly News Feed is as apt a metaphor as I could ever come up with. A perfect network would allow for real-time scanning and response, which is what we all hope heaven is capable of with regards to our prayers.
A perfect social network would also allow for perfect communication of our thoughts and hearts. This is an issue that technologists at Twitter and Facebook grapple with—the importance of identity, and providing users with a safe place to share and bare their souls. I’ve heard Zuckerberg speak several times, and one of his main points of emphasis is that the trend is toward more sharing; oversharing is good. He believes that as his and other social networks improve, we won’t have as much incentive to hide pieces of ourselves and our lives.
It’s a beautiful idea.
“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1 Cor. 13:12)
I hope my friend is happy and free from pain and worry, and I’m very grateful that Facebook granted me the opportunity to share some connection with her. I’m also grateful that she was brave enough to share her experiences with her Facebook friends. And if there’s cross-compatibility between her celestial social network and our earthly one, I hope she Likes this post.