Lately I’ve been thinking of Facebook and Twitter as a sort of digital Pompeii — evidence of peoples’ past activities will persist, barely-comprehensible and frozen in time, even after the posters have stopped writing about the great runs they just had, the hilarious and poignant antics of their kids, the dated pop-culture references they share with you, and so on. Unlike Twitter’s firehose, which privileges novelty above all, Facebook’s interface calls out prior events and actively encourages you to participate and interact in certain ways, which can lead to points of surprising emotional resonance.
For example, Facebook sometimes reminds me to send a message to a deceased friend on his birthday. I usually react to these sorts of notifications with a mixture of renewed thankfulness for my friend’s life, including all the memories that have occasion to surface once more, and renewed sadness at their present absence. It merely traces along scars, though, to receive an automated suggestion that my friends who have gone to their rest are good candidates for demotion to the “Acquaintances” list because I don’t interact with them all that often these days.