My mom passed away my freshman year. Here’s a fun fact: When you die, your Facebook profile still lives on.
It doesn’t ascend into the heavens, free from the pain of Candy Crush notifications, before turning into a GIF of a dove. I’m sharing this real-life truth with you so you’re able to make provisions in your will for a postmortem social media handler. My mother did not have that luxury, and that explains why I spent my a regular ‘ol Tuesday night hacking into a dead woman’s Facebook account. Surprisingly, it was a lot harder than you’d think.
It started with the password-guessing: I tried any and all incarnations of our dog’s name, anything vaguely Irish, and even my name. I accepted defeat about half an hour in and then moved into the recovery phase.
Apparently Mark Zuckerberg has never experienced grief, because he created an awful lot of virtual hoops to jump through. First, you have to tell Facebook you don’t have access to the user’s phone number or email account. After their system begrudgingly accepts this, there’s a string of uncomfortable moments where you try to guess your loved one’s answers to security questions. (My mom misspelled her childhood street name and I called four family members to figure out what the first concert she went to was.) Next, you make a new email account to perpetuate your lies and supply to the website as a decoy. Then (and before any sort of hacker’s victory dance can begin), Facebook makes you wait 24 hours to try to squash any sort of tomfoolery.
The last step is promptly forgetting all about this traumatic technological ordeal until your roommate reminds you about it the next night. What all that hacking results in is one moment that’s hard to describe: logging into the Facebook account of my deceased mother isn’t something I expected to do, but I don’t expect much anymore. It was strange and a bit sad to see her timeline, her friends, her family moving along, seemingly unfazed by having my mom on their friends list even after they’d attended her funeral. I spent a few minutes just browsing and contemplating sending people messages as a ghost. I made a polite status update (as myself -- not my ghost-mom) thanking everyone for their support and letting them know that I planned on deleting the page. When I went to actually deactivate the account, pictures of my family popped up with the message “[so-and-so] won’t be able to connect with you!”
Please, Mr. Zuckerberg: If we wanted to connect with my mom we’d need a Ouija board.
And although I have no interest in “the devil’s phonebook,” I felt bad about clearing my mom from the Internet. So, in her memory I created a memorial Facebook page. It’s not much, but I think it’s something she would like (and have no idea how to use).
I’m sure this should wrap up with some philosophical remark about how technology is bigger than all of us or why Her should have won an Oscar, but I’m a little burned out on waxing poetic. Social-media hacking takes a lot out of a girl, you know? The moral of the story is that it might be uncomfortable to be friends with your mom on Facebook when she’s living, but once she’s dead, it’s a whole 'nother ball game.
Also? I’m pretty sure Mark Zuckerberg’s into Ouija boards.
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