The paranormal body and online cemeteries

By: Carolina Santillán Cano

facebook memorialization request.jpg

Loss, death, the last record of a being that has left the world, the digital body that is used as a means to dialogue with this lost being, which serves, in my opinion, as a Ouija to contact the beyond. It is this type of work that makes the memorialized accounts now on Facebook, which is the page on which I am going to focus.

There is now a feature on Facebook that helps you maintain the profile of a deceased person as if it were a memorial, thus being an opportunity to not deactivate the profile and completely lose this loved one, this is called a memorialized account. A kind of virtual church where you can write good wishes after the death of a loved one, same which will be read by all those who are on the friends list. Where the profile picture and name create the equivalent of a tombstone and a string of epitaphs is created on the memorialized account for the deceased.

For this reason, I call this a paranormal event. The paranormal is understood as something that is far from normal. The existence of memorialized profiles is practically the same as gravestones in a cemetery, therefore, Facebook now acts as a cemetery, communication network and interaction network between users.

This thought arises because two years ago I lost a friend in a car accident, a year ago another of my friends died of an illness. Knowing that they had died, my first reaction was to access their profiles to see if something there could explain the reason of their sudden deaths. There, I found something both curious and painful.

Their Facebook friends started to fill my friends' profiles with messages of love, prayers, good wishes and things that are usually said when someone is praying or at funerals. For me, I went into a dilemma of whether to remove the profiles because I would no longer talk to them or to keep them there to remember them. How was I going to forget them if I deleted their Facebook account? I chose not to unfriend them and to continue suffering.

This made me think about the relationship of a person with the body that leaves within social networks and how now an account replaces a body that has disappeared. Using an intermediary to an account that will no longer be reviewed by the person behind it makes me think about the use of Ouija boards.

The practice, or game, of using these boards began with the goal of communicating with spirits, therefore, they were endowed with an almost diabolical character because, according to some people, several children had been possessed after playing with them. But when compared with the use that is given to these memorialized accounts, they don't go very far. To make myself clear, I made a comparison between of the use of the memorialized account and the Ouija board.


Memorialized account:

1.- The person accesses the account

2.- They move into the publications box

3.- Write the publication

4.- Publish it

Ouija board

1.- The session starts

2.- The user(s) takes the triangle with which you are going to speak

3.- The user(s) makes questions to the spirit he/she is trying to contact

4.- The search for this spirit begins


Both can be considered a search that does not make sense, even if it is not always used this way, there is a hope deposited in the use of Ouija boards. I find that the same happens in these memorialized profiles where the person has disappeared and will never answer to any of the publications made posthumously.

However, this space where there was still something left of the person who died can be understood as a sign that he/she existed. The fact that I do not want to get rid of the two digital bodies of my friends is because I refuse to forget them or that, if I unfriend them and later on want to get them back, when I send a friend request will never be accepted.

Nowadays, we are more related to a person's Facebook profile than to the person itself. If a profile disappears or, suddenly, we leave this network, a chaotic event begins because the person has digitally disappeared and now we know nothing of their life immediately.

At this point we can talk about entering a paranormal state. If we understand it from the etymology, the normal thing is now to talk through chat windows and the apps that keep us close to people who are far away, as a kind of connection that helps us to be in places where, physically, we cannot. But, the paranormal side is when we enter a memorialized account and start a monologue with someone who physically died.

However, it can be seen as a common practice because there are cemeteries, places where we go and talk with these deceased people, clean their graves and bring food to share with them. Now we can do something similar, but less personal, within the Facebook memorialized accounts, since anyone in the friends list can see the publications that are made.

I think that dealing with a digital ghost, would be more or less to watch their photographs, their shared posts and what we can see through the "On This Day" Facebook feature, where we find the spirit of the deceased, same which conceptually becomes a paranormal event that we experience with our digital bodies.

The fact that we are disconnected from a physical body after death does not mean that we are disconnected from a digital body, since we can give a memorialized character to this profile that has been activated, we can use it as a tomb, chapel and place of worship. The disconnection is not possible because it is the last thing we have left of the deceased, it is what mysteriously did not disappear with the death of the physical body, a body that cannot be abandoned, a body that they left behind, where part of their soul still reside and will remain until our own profile becomes a grave too.