I was relatively late to Facebook, not creating a profile until sometime in 2007 (I forget exactly when). Once I set up my account, I made friends with all the people who had hounded me into it, then began to search for friends from grad school, from the blogosphere, and so forth. I eventually made my way “back” to high school, and became friends with a handful of people whom I’d been relatively close with (I have since made it all the way back to elementary school), including an F-15 pilot who had previously been unaware of my attitudes towards the Air Force. I also became friends with Jessie, with whom I’d gone to senior prom and on whom I had (to no great avail) briefly but intensely crushed.
Over the two years or so that we were “Facebook friends” we chatted a few times, exchanged a couple of e-mails, and made a few comments on and “likes” of each others statuses, pictures, links, and so forth. It didn’t amount to intense interaction, but I learned that Jessie had gotten married, had a son, and developed breast cancer. She’d beaten it, but had suffered a recurrence and was going through treatment again. I never delved very deeply into the details, because I didn’t feel it was my place; I wasn’t close enough to ask questions that might be difficult. Nevertheless, I was happy that we were able to chat, and that she had the opportunity to comment on pictures of the girls.
This morning I noticed that some friends were writing on her Wall, and I soon learned that Jessie passed away last night. What we communicated over the past couple of years didn’t amount to much, but right now it means a lot to me. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have known that she had passed, I wouldn’t have known why, and I wouldn’t have a sense of how her friends were reacting. While I didn’t have a chance to say “goodbye,” I wouldn’t have had a chance to say “hello (again).” At the moment, I find this very comforting.
Of course, there’s nothing particular about Facebook that makes this possible. Any other social networking site could do the same thing, providing that sufficient numbers of people sign on. There’s no excuse for the fumbling of privacy rules and regulations. Still, there really is something valuable in what Facebook provides, and right now I’m thankful that I signed on, that Jessie signed on, and that we had our final chance to talk. I will miss her, but I at least I’ll know that I miss her.