So, Mark Zuckerberg wants to change the image of his company. It is now called Meta, and its future is not Facebook (old hat) but the metaverse. This new program is supposed to generate a fun virtual place where you can be anything or anyone or anywhere. You can be poor at home but as rich as Zuckerberg in the metaverse.
You can even meet friends on a virtual space station that recalls the real one Boeing and Jeff Bezos are planning to build and flow with the "mass of floating money whirling about the Earth in an orbital rondo." Jean Baudrillard, one of the 20th century's leading theorists of simulation and virtuality (his thinking inspired key concepts in the movie The Matrix) described this unreal state of things as "transeconomics": "It's when money is now the only genuine artificial satellite."
Though there's mention of money ("low price") in Zuckerberg's presentation of the metaverse, and also work, there's no mention of death. This is a place for you to make social connections. That's it. Your dog does something weird, you can share it with friends in the space station. Have a birthday, share it on the space station. Your husband croaks?
But anyone in their middle years, as I am, sees a whole lot of death going on in their Facebook feed. And maybe it's not just my age, but also the fact that people do really die all of the time, and Facebook connects me directly to this raw fact of life, to all of these dying, soon-to-die, just died, long-dead people who, under normal circumstances, I would know nothing about. My natural family, for example, has not suffered a loss in over two years. As for my Facebook friends? Jesus.
Even this morning, I learned that the mother of a person I haven't seen in 30 years died at 9:50 pm last night. (I was watching Queen Latifah's The Equalizer around that time.) My feed also had an image of a grandmother who was once young and sat on a spot that had a great view of the doomed Twin Towers. The year was 1975. She died peacefully. Before I finally stopped reading my feed, it reminded me that the body of a person I hardly knew was found on the kitchen floor exactly a year ago. His heart crashed like a plane that fell out of the sky. He hit the floor hard. His son found his body. They are still very much missed. Gone way too soon. Crying emojis. Facebook has become my Deathbook.
If you go to Twitter, you learn of the famous dead: Puneeth Rajkumar, Jovita Moore, James Michael Tyler, Colin Powell, and so on. On Facebook, the deaths are simple and plain; they are of people like you and me. It's a mother, a father, an uncle, an aunt, a brother, a sister. There are also lots of dead dogs and cats. And the older you get, the more of these Facebook ghosts appear before you sleep and when you wake up. You are alive, but that accountant in Arkansas you never met is not. He, a loving father and devoted fan of the Razorbacks, did not make it through the late-October night, with its frightening pumpkins on porches and plastic bones in abandoned bathtubs. How he loved Calling the Hogs.
The metaverse is not death-proof.