An odd new ritual has taken hold in the age of social media: when a casual acquaintance dies, people you don’t necessarily know start tagging photos of the deceased, sharing memories. Initially, you assume it is your acquaintance’s birthday or some other special occasion as you stream through your newsfeed in search of something more relevant. Maybe several of these posts appear throughout the day before you slow down and read one, and finally the weight of event reaches you.
One of my college classmates passed away this week. I still don’t know what happened. He was someone I never knew intimately, though we interacted countless times in college. Afterward, we followed each other online along with dozens of other contemporaries that Facebook suddenly reconnected. He was someone whose posts I saw regularly, an Angeleno and a diehard fan of the Dodgers. He was Mexican-American and Republican until Trump won the primaries, after which he seemed to undergo a political conversion. He commented on my page from time to time, often in agreement with my posts. I may not have responded the last time he wrote, though I’d meant to. I hadn’t gotten around to it because I assumed there’d always be more time.
I asked another friend what happened. He wasn’t sure either, but told me he thought our classmate had been ill for some time. That detail crushed me. How often do we interact with someone superficially without even knowing what they’re dealing with, without a clue as to what is really going on?
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