It’s been previously noted the unnatural oddness that is leaving behind a virtual representation of oneself on the myface. As this shit gets more mainstream, the awkwardness gets more familiar and yet more surreal. In the Times, Adam Cohen writes of a friend’s Facebook profile becoming a sort of living shrine to a dead-too-soon friend. At least it served that function to those who friended him up while he was still alive, and until his surviving family chooses to pull the plug on the profile. But what of those who die unloved, unmourned, unfriended?
I recently threw in the towel and joined Facebook, the creepy, creepy improvement on Friendster and MySpace. Immediately, the computer intelligence starts recommending friends I should connect with. How does this bloody thing know the names of girls that I went on one or two dates with three or four years ago? And why does this blasted thing want me to be friends with Don Busky? Busky died late last year, and in life we were something closer to enemies than friends.
He was always an odd fellow, more noted for his reclusiveness than his actual politics or personality. As an ambitious young turk, I quickly butted heads with the guy in an attempt to recruit eager new recruits to charter a more active Philadelphia local of the Socialist Party and overthrow an innocent savant who was more interested in publishing silly little zines with a socialist bent. Shortly after I showed up for work in the party’s national office, as a teenage socialist in 1996, my buddy Clement Joseph started cracking jokes about the disembodied brain in a jar that was Donald F. Busky. My only interactions with the comrade were a fairly acrimonious e-mail exchange over his failure to properly represent the party (or, indeed, turn up to a single meeting) in the “Unity 2000” rally planning. His last message to me (and every party member for whom he could find an email address) was addressed, simply, “Cde. Richman owes some apologies.” I met him a few months later at a YPSL convention near Rittenhouse Square in 2001. We spoke not a word, but it was the first time I had been in his physical presence. The brain in a jar was a large man, shy and soft-spoken. He was a devoted Mac user, a labor buff and adjunct professor. We might have been friends if we hadn’t started as enemies. It was a sad loss, but C’est la vie. I soon left the party, and didn’t hear about Busky again until Gabe Ross passed on the unfortunate news about his death last December.
The next time I saw Cde. Busky’s name was on an open public records access request for the list of adjunct faculty at a community college down in southern New Jersey, where I’m helping the part-timers form a union. Prof. Donald F. Busky gets to be a voter in their union election, except that he couldn’t possibly vote “Union Yes” (as he surely would have) because he is No Longer Employed. Still, it was a kick in the guts to see his name on that OPRA list, just as it is a kick in the guts to see him recommended as a friend on Facebook whenever I log in, and to see his name and home address on a mailing label for a mailing we worked on last Friday for the union campaign.
I don’t think his elderly mother (if she’s still alive), or any other surviving relative knows enough to get Cde. Busky’s Facebook profile retired. Therefore, he will continue to haunt me. Perhaps I’ll learn to be a better comrade to those who have yet to shuffle off this mortal coil.