Quote on death, identity and social media, by Zadie Smith

Came across this quote from Zadie Smith (author of the excellent novels White Teeth which is all about identity of first and second generations immigrants). She is commenting at length on the movie The Social Network and the facebook phenomenon.

It seemed significant to me that on the way to the movie theater, while doing a small mental calculation (how old I was when at Harvard; how old I am now), I had a Person 1.0 panic attack. Soon I will be forty, then fifty, then soon after dead; I broke out in a Zuckerberg sweat, my heart went crazy, I had to stop and lean against a trashcan. Can you have that feeling, on Facebook? I’ve noticed—and been ashamed of noticing—that when a teenager is murdered, at least in Britain, her Facebook wall will often fill with messages that seem to not quite comprehend the gravity of what has occurred. You know the type of thing: Sorry babes! Missin’ you!!! Hopin’ u iz with the Angles. I remember the jokes we used to have LOL! PEACE XXXXX

When I read something like that, I have a little argument with myself: “It’s only poor education. They feel the same way as anyone would, they just don’t have the language to express it.” But another part of me has a darker, more frightening thought. Do they genuinely believe, because the girl’s wall is still up, that she is still, in some sense, alive? What’s the difference, after all, if all your contact was virtual?

via Generation Why? by Zadie Smith | The New York Review of Books.

This experience (which I have seen) of writing on someone’s wall after they are dead tells of a latent spirituality (written about elsewhere) that many people have. Even though they are unwilling to commit to an organised religion there is still a core set of beliefs verging on superstition, based on all manner of things, that many like to cling to – such as the existence of a universal afterlife for all people, or at least only the people you like, regardless of whether there is a belief in God to head the whole thing up. Are such beliefs a way into the Christian faith, or a distraction from it?

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