According to a note in Harper’s Magazine, a study was done at Oxford to determine a date on which the number of dead people on Facebook might outnumber the Facers who remain somewhat alive — somewhat alive because, if you indulge in more than 30 minutes of social media time per day, it is questionable if you live fully.
Half alive, I go to Google and seek more info.
Sure enough, according to researchers laboring on the small isle whose residents once decimated and dominated countries and cultures around the globe, the number of dead people on Facebook will outnumber the living by 2070. If Facebook grows at its present rate, say the nerdy necromaniacs at the Oxford Internet Institute, Facebook could include at least 4.9 billion no-longer-here members by 2100.
A wag named these dead peoples’ pages “zombie accounts.”
After a couple years checking Facebook, reading posts, enduring memes and assorted trivia and tripe, I’ve come to the conclusion a Facebook member need not be clinically dead in order to maintain a zombie account. Partial brain death must be taken into account, and given its due; there are many quasi zombies staggering daily through the online swamp — more, in fact, each day — and they provide ample I’m-dead-between-the-ears content on their pages.
This is cause for misery, and indicative of a problem produced by social media in the formative years: it is obvious that social media sites kill brain cells, and erode the ability to entertain long-form narratives and recognize bullshit when it appears in any of its many guises. Zombies, trolls, whiners, and morons thrash around in foul social media waters, dispensing waste, infecting everything and everyone in their virtual vicinity. Quasi zombies abound.
As for legit dead zombie account members, I find myself encountering them when their birthdays roll around, and I have evidence the members are no longer with us.
If you are dumb enough to give Facebook information about your date of birth, the service announces the joyful day to all your “friends,” who then wish you a happy birthday on Facebook, rather than bake a cake or a pan of enchiladas to deliver in person, warbling a tired ditty as you open the door and they present the prize. There are plenty of birthday emojis available to the soulless online well-wisher: some are cute little cakes, some cakes with a candle included, some cakes with the fake candle alight with a fake flame. In our phone-in-the-face-at-all-times age, nothing replaces an expression of genuine emotion better than an emoji shot from a distance. I have yet to locate an enchilada emoji.
I am not immune to the appeal and corrosive power of social media and its zombification process, so I fall into the computohole nearly every morning to first check the few legitimate news sources that remain in business, then mouse my way to Facebook, where I search for birthday announcements for dead people.
The a.m. dead watch has become part of my drink-coffee-and-temper-the-hangover regimen. I require at least an hour of highly-caffeinated nerve blast and a dose of paper-thin Facebook content in order to come close to my norm, brainwise. That norm, of course, is nowhere near what it used to be; once upon a time, I had a formidable norm to crow about. At least that’s what I’ve claimed in numerous, self-congratulatory Facebook posts.
My daily deathwatch more often than not uncovers a fresh zombie so, several weeks ago, I began posting birthday greetings on the dead folks’ sites.
Look at his profile picture, there he is: Marvin, crowned with a lure-enhanced MAGA hat, sitting at the stern of his bass boat, a Bud Lite clutched in his beefy paw, the remainder of a twelve-pack at his feet. He’s got a couple days off from his job as a forklift operator at the Airgas Distribution Center in Mulberry, and he’s kickin’ back at the lake, fishin’ and drinkin’, grillin’ some cheap bratwurst, and exchanging hilarious racist and sexist asides with his pals.
I post a comment.
“It’s your day, Marv, make it a great one! No catch and release for you, big guy. Or, for America!”
Marvin died four years ago, the day after the photo was taken. He drank too many Bud Lites, went into convulsions as he laughed at a joke about Vietnamese lesbians, and tumbled over the side of his boat. It’s rumored that the catfish in Arkansas lakes are carnivores.
Glenda appears in a photo taken at a popular Mexican restaurant in Duluth during a night out with the gals to celebrate her birthday and an impressive bowling league milestone. She holds an oversize margarita in one hand, and a commercial guacamole-laden tortilla chip in the other, as she beams and flashes her too-white veneers. Everyone is having a great time at Glenda’s combo birthday/first 200-game celebration.
I leave a comment.
“Do something special for yourself, Glenda. Happy B-Day. After your triumphant battle with cancer, you deserve it. You’ll always bowl a 300, in my heart.”
Soon after her triumph on the lanes, the tide of battle turns suddenly, and the cancer wins. Glenda rolls her last strike, gets her final massage and pedicure, and eats her last order of nachos in 2017.
Kenny is seen with his arm around his granddaughter, the two celebrants exultant after the kid’s graduation from a state college in 2015 with a degree in musical theater, her head rattled by delusions of grandeur. Kenny is bursting with pride and, judging from the photo, bursting otherwise with the help of a lifelong diet rich in fats and carbohydrates. I check the granddaughter’s site the other day, and learn of Kenny’s flameout. The granddaughter is divorced, a single mom with one kid, a part-time job at Hobby Lobby, and no grandfather. Kenny experiences a problem in 2016 with what cardiologist’s call “the widow maker,” and that is that.
“One more trip around the sun, Kenny. That’s 72, and counting! What’s it like oldtimer?”
Kenny’s scattered atoms made the last three trips around the sun without Kenny.
As I discover similar cases, I realize I must do something creative with this Facebook dead folks phenomenon.
I have an acquaintance who, while seriously disturbed in most respects, is a computer whiz — one of the prominent on-off, one-zero geniuses of the late 60s and early 70s, a cult figure revered by pocket protector-sporting prototechies of the era.
I knew Sidney when he was making major breakthroughs in the new field of computer graphics, simultaneously convinced that biphetamine was a gift of the gods, and doing significant damage to his personal motherboard with fists full of the famed Strasenburgh Black Beauty.
He made the breakthroughs, got the recognition, squandered the cash earned working at prestigious institutions, and he shorted out.
As a result, by the mid-70s, Sid lost his position at Stanford’s Computer Systems Lab, and grew a beard that reached his nipples in a successful attempt to look like the lost twin of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia. He developed a habit of taking one bath per month, and now lives with a herd of cats in the furnace room of a decrepit apartment building in West Denver, devouring Saltines and bitter chocolate, and doing work on the building’s electrical system, regularly running volts through his scorched neurons in exchange for free rent.
Despite the damage, Sid still knows his way around the digital map. He’s a pioneer, after all; he helped survey the first trails on the virgin digiscape.
While I am no fan of bitter chocolate, I like Sid. A lot.
As a result, I lure Sid to the project of his lifetime, the one that will redeem him and put him back at the pinnacle of his profession. To chum him in, I promise I’ll loan him my collection of the rare 1972 Academy Press editions of Women With Women, given he promises he won’t smear the images with chocolate. I’ll supply him with powerful stimulants to fuel the creative process. Black Beauties were taken off the market in the late ‘90s, so I need a source of quality product.
I gotta guy.
I have another acquaintance to whom, for obvious reasons, I will give a pseudonym — “Doc.” Doc is an ex member of the Bandidos motorcycle club who resides in a nearby storage unit here in Siberia With a View, where he cooks a legendary concoction sought by addled connoisseurs throughout the American Southwest, and regularly sees demons hanging upside down from the ceiling in his sheet metal abode/workshop, barking threats at him in one of four languages. Doc is known to fire off rounds from a .44 magnum when the demons pose a serious threat. The roof of the storage unit is riddled with bullet holes, and precipitation is a problem, but Doc, so far, overcomes it. I won’t admit to sampling Doc’s product due to the fact my personal physician, Wanda, scrutinizes my every move, but other evidence indicates Doc can be of help.
Sid jumps at the chance when I explain the project. When he jumps, he scares the cats.
Sid will be back in the record books…in 50 years.
Here it is.
I ask Sid to keep me “alive” on Facebook, or whatever offspring Facebook spawns, for half of a century after I die.
Following my concealed demise, “Karl” sends friend requests to five people per week (Sid-created software employs an algorithm to select likely targets, then fires off the requests, and welcomes newcomers into the fold. A Sid–engineered program stocked with entries offers up a new post on my page every two weeks for 2,600 weeks after my atoms join Kenny’s in trips around the sun.
I have no idea how many “friends” Facebook or its descendents will allow “me” to collect, but on the fiftieth anniversary of my actual death a message will be sent to each of them notifying them that they have been communicating with vapor.
My “friends” will discover that the clever posts, memes, insights, and startling responses to the political and cultural nonsense that is a permanent part of American life, are AI missives prompted by someone whose ashes were scattered (two thirds) and eaten by mourners (one third) fifty years before. The fact they couldn’t tell the difference between Vapor Karl and a living Facebook member should be instructive. Of course, since the recipients of the revelation are Facebook members, the meaning will be lost on most of them.
So, with Sid in the ranks and the two of us marching more or less in step, I start composing the 1,300 posts required for the 50-year scam.
I begin with the easy stuff.
I have photos of hundreds of works of art that I’ve failed to sell, and all that each photo needs is a comment. The best kind of comment is a lie, indicating the work sold recently for a stupendous amount of money at Sotheby’s or Christies, thus boosting the value of the diminishing number of masterworks in the inventory that remain available to oligarchs in search of a sure investment.
In 50 years, that inventory will likely belong to my grandchildren and their children, paintings and drawings decaying in mildew riddled Tuff Sheds or shipping containers. Hopefully my descendents will be able to turn a few pieces for profit since, in 50 years, only 1 percent of the population will be able to afford both housing and any food other than compressed sugar beet silage sold as Swiss steak. The extra funds will come in handy as the kids, and their kids, pursue the Good Life.
I’ll create several hundred posts that feature food, various dishes and their preparation, with titles like “Here’s something people ate long before you were born,” or “You’ll never eat this.”
These will be a breeze. I have ample material that I’ve included in newspaper columns or plastered on my website over the years. Each post will include a recipe and a photo. What photos I don’t have in my collection I’ll take as I fritter away the rest of my life tinkering with recipes, cooking and eating as well as I can, without causing myself undue pain. I will remain an Epicurean to the end or, more likely, to near the end. I suspect my final meals will be taken on the veranda of Sparkling Acres Assisted Living Complex in the form of three doses of Ensure per day, with a container of tapioca pudding offered up as a treat on Sundays.
I enjoy few things more than writing about food, so the creation of these posts will provide me with entertainment, unearthing a wealth of touchstones that open on my food history, allowing me to enjoy memories of what I can’t afford to experience again, now that I am an elderly bum.
I imagine the consternation my “friends” will experience when they see my photo of the lasagna and Ossobuco I prepare in order to mimic a meal I ate at a dilapidated villa located on a hill above Sorrento (lemon trees, goats, dusty urchins, eggplant and tomatoes growing in wild profusion in a huge garden, junk cars, semi-feral and aggressive canines of undetermined breed) — the masterpiece created by an extremely large and emotionally unpredictable woman also renowned throughout the region for her way with artichokes and Branzino.
The recipes I post will include ingredients unknown to my “friends” fifty years in the future, and their research into the items will puzzle and trouble them. Only scholars at major universities will possess extensive knowledge of the practice of cooking and devouring the tissues of beasts that once provided protein and the gluey delights that come of rendered collagen.
The lasagna cannot be made with compressed sugar beet residue.
A couple of decades will have passed since anyone has seen, much less eaten the shank of a milk-fed baby cow, so Ossubuco might as well be the name of a silage dispensary in Milan.
I will taunt yet-unborn readers with commentary concerning ground Chimayo red, purchased by the pound in bygone days at Romero’s, in Espanola, the peppers no longer grown due to the brutal effects of climate change on the soils of northern New Mexico. Nothing but sugar beets will grow in Chimayo in the 2070s.
Several posts will feature photos of items once found at Santa Fe’s premiere carniceria, El Paisano Supermarket: odd cuts of flesh, fragrant herbs displayed loose in baskets, packages of dried corn husks, cheeses, obscure fruits, dried Anchos, Pasillas, Arbol, Hatch reds, Guajillo, Cascabel, kept in large, open bins. In a sidebar, I’ll detail the menu at the tiny tacqueria set at the back of the store, then describe the incredible smells that emanated from the spot, as well as the mouthfeel and deep, stay-with-you-until-tomorrow tastes of long-braised, heavily spiced flesh.
I will devote several posts to the crimes of Monsanto and its ilk in the first half of the century, as the companies put science geeks to work genetically modifying crops that eventually succumb to perils inherent in the practice of monoculture that employs but one type of seed.
I’ll remind my readers that the GMO process destroyed most traditional food sources including corn (but not sugar beets), the one remaining, mangled strain of maize wiped out by long dormant rusts and stalk rot freed from thawing northern Canadian tundra. I’ll wax poetic about what was once called “masa,” about nixtamal and the charm of fresh corn tortillas and arepas. I’ll feature photos of tacos, tamales, antojitos. I’ll boost the chroma of the colors in the photos, so salsas seem to teeter on the cusp of combustion.
I figure I’ll need to compose about 500 statements that include witty barbs — the targets unimportant, since wit is an end in itself; false accusations; affirmations of persistent conspiracy theories (chemtrails, “dark” surveillance projects, hormone additives in a nearly depleted supply of fresh water, the triumph of the robots, yeti, alien laboratories located beneath mountains and the horrifying experiments conducted therein); comments about beloved pets, with supplementary, vintage photos. Insects will dominate the pet world in 50 years, since most parakeets, gerbils, dogs, and cats will be eaten shortly after cows, pigs, lambs, etc. become extinct, devoured by workers replaced at the factory by the robots. Those that manage to escape the maws of malnourished proles — the pets freed during the Great PETA Uprising of 65 — will be unable to survive in an altered biosphere.
My cicada photos will provoke tears in lovers of the order Hemiptera.
“I” will fire off the occasional extreme political statement that, while abrasively strident, will be difficult to pinpoint in terms of ideology. My ongoing, deep structure analysis reveals that extremists ultimately wear the same brand and style of coat; only the tint varies.
The posts will tug at triggers in a political environment I’m certain will persist for the next 50 years: fear of “the other” (caustic remarks built on the foundation of “they are not our kind, and they are lazy”); economic class (“they want to take what we earned with our dedication and hard work,” or “they want our jobs,” or “they want something for nothing”); patriotism (“they don’t want America great again, this time”); and common political paranoia (“they’re taking away our freedom”).
Note the use of the word “they,” a term essential for effective polspeak, whenever messages are delivered to idiots. Since robots will control information sources and distribution in the future, and institutions of higher learning will have taught little but identity studies for fifty years, idiots will be the rule of the day, gaggles of them gathered in groups, united by comforting confirmation bias.
I’m excited, amped up by my idea; I work on it for several days until my brother, Kurt, arrives in Siberia With a View for a visit.
I explain my plan, and Kurt, knowing Sid, agrees I am on the right track. He and Sid ingested a record-breaking number of peyote buttons during a camping trip near Steamboat Springs, Colorado, in 1974. They are brothers, of a different kind.
The mind-altering experience (and others like it) fails to derail Kurt, however. Unlike me, Kurt does not decide at age 16 that it is a swell idea to be a writer and painter. He completes a reasonable education, acquires skills that promote economic success, and is not approaching the end of his trip seated in the caboose. Kurt understands how to get by in the world, and prosper.
As a result, when Kurt hears my idea, he says, “Wow, we need to monetize this! This could be the next big thing! There’s a fortune to be made.”
You could have fooled me.
Kurt, Kathy, and I hold a confab over cocktails to develop a blueprint for success. I fill a tumbler with my best friend Tito’s handmade vodka (I add two small ice cubes, for effect), take several swallows, snarf down a THC Stroopwafel, and turn on the lights in the idea factory. Here’s what rolls off the assembly line:
- A company, working name EternoDij.
- A hook: “EternoDij…now, you can live forever (in all respects but one).”
- A product: Eternal virtual life. “Eternal” insofar as “existence” is linked to the Internet, and future social media services.
EternoDij allows a customer to pick from a number of packages.
An EternoDij customer can choose to limit her “lifetime” due to financial constraints or, if one of the lucky few, can extend her “self” worldwide for however long she desires. All EternoDij fees are, of course, paid in full prior to the actual death (as opposed to virtual death) of the customer.
Shereen, for example, does not haul in much treasure as a barista, and has never felt all that good about herself, so her proposed continued existence as “Starlight, a noted tattoo and piercings model” is funded for a mere ten years following her demise.
Clark, on the other hand, is a successful investment banker and slumlord. Clark can exist as a “Nobel Peace Prize winner” until our species gives way to robots, radiation, and viruses, and/or the power to the Internet is turned off. Clark has cash, and EternoDij can use a hunk of it.
EternoDij “lifetimes” begin at five years, and can be as long as “Indefinite,” each level priced accordingly.
A choice of persona (since the average customer is not interesting in his or her own right), is offered free of charge, the number of personae available tied to the cost of the package. Well-to-do buyers can choose to be themselves, or adopt one of a hundred or so fascinating profiles, with accompanying characteristics. A basic package purchaser is limited to America Has Talent Quarterfinalist, Public Course Golf Pro, or Conceptual Artist.
The five-year Basic Package requires a down payment of $100, plus $400 prior to the program being locked and loaded, ready to fire up once the buyer expires. The EternoDij Basic Package software sends a “Friend Request Blast” once each month. The Basic Package “Commentary Spectrum” includes two posts per month, chosen randomly by an EternoDij program from the Politics, Personal Relationships, Diseases, Mental Problems, and Financial Difficulties “bins.”
A client can choose Smug Liberal, Boring, or Nazi as their commentary tone.
The Platinum Club package — our best — involves the attractive Infinity Promise, with a $2,000 down payment, and $5,000 due before the software is installed and prepped for action. The Platinum buyer purchases 100 Friend Request Blasts per month, 30 photo posts, and 30 commentary posts per month, with more than 50 commentary topics to choose from. These run the gamut from Fashion Critique to Post-Structuralist Word Scramble.
Several of the more than 250 personae available in the Platinum mix imply the individual possesses superhuman or supernatural powers, and perhaps maintains contact with extraterrestrials. The Platinum Package client chooses from the list of three comment tones offered to the Basic Package buyer, with the additions of Solon and Quaker.
I’m convinced the Basic Package will be our big seller. I convened a focus group on a Go to Meeting conference chat with folks here in Siberia With a View, and the results indicate a surprising number of them would like to be a CIA operative named either Colt or Spence, with an extensive beer cellar, a fleet of four-wheelers, a large RV, and pirated satellite TV service with a full lineup of adult and country music channels.
EternoDij can fill the bill.
Ponder the possibilities.
You might be a complete disappointment now, but “The perfect you lives the perfect life, with friends galore … for as long as you want, and can pay for.”
While the rhythm and rhyme schemes are clumsy, I think this motto will serve the company well, reproduced in italics at the bottom of the EternoDij home page. Most Facebook members will love the “poetry” of the expression, having never read Yeats or Stevens.
I communicate with Kurt every couple of days now that he is back in Denver, back to a job involving respect, a healthy salary, and a great benefit package. We continue to fine-tune the project, and Kurt promises to visit Sid to monitor progress and deliver saltines.
When EternoDij cashes in, an avalanche of coin will crash into my bank account (I need to open said account) and, wealthy at last, I’ll put the pedal down for the last lap of the race. I might even save some money, avoid a stay at Sparkling Acres, and spend my final days tended by a comely Brazilian hospice nurse adept in the art of tantric therapy.
Once flush, after a couple weeks of intense card action at Bellagio with my fellow whales, I’ll head back to the Bay of Naples, to Sorrento and the villa on the hill, if it still exists. Then, I’ll zip to Milan to savor the wonder of non-silage Ossobuco and take in a couple doses of cassouela. From there, I’ll be off to Lyon for a couple weeks of food and wine (quenelles, sabodet, rosette lyonnaise, all the syrah I can swallow) then, via Paris, where I’ll make a stop at a favorite dive that specializes in organ meats (note to self: fill the scrip for allopurinol), it’s on to San Sebastian to gorge on the fruits of land and sea, in pintxo form, the feast accompanied by the sound of an eskusoinua squeezed and fingered by a skilled street musician.
If none of this pans out, I’ll have Sid post messages and photos on my zombie site after I die, detailing a fantastic trip that never took place. The fact I didn’t make the trip won’t bother me at all. I’ll be dead.
The other me will live on, my profile photo that of a mid-30s male beach volleyball player with rippling six-pack, spectacular shoulders, and smooth, well-oiled, tan skin.
I will be blond, and attractive to others, regardless of gender.
For fifty years.