…that is indeed the question.
Albeit, not a huge dilemma for me in general. In the past few months or so I have made a huge cut, removing 150 of the 250 I had as friends on Facebook and not feeling bad in the slightest. The 150-ish to go were randoms, like Nicolas, who had my mum as his teacher back in the 80s and for that reason vaguely connected with me. Or Harry, who is the older brother of a girl I was friends with when I was eleven. No big deal to cut those out. What’s left is the 100 I have an actual connection to or with, and the ones I’d be happy to grab a beer with. They are my family, closest friends or people I know and admire and want to keep in my closest circle. The remaining 100 are to greater or lesser extents important to me and my life outside of Facebook.
There he is, his profile photo one where he looks……. …just like the Matt I’ve always adored. His quiff high on his head, he looks sideways to the camera, looking as mischevious as always. I’d bet any money he’s drunk in this photo, being a party animal and all. Any time he’s posted a status update those are funny, astute and thought provoking – much like him: always a quick comment or barb to make the rest of us laugh. Why on earth would I unfriend Matt?
Well. The thing is Matt is dead.
I am also a member of the remembrance page set up after his death, which three years down the line still has regular comments and updates from those who knew him. I was invited to it, and of course joined. I never posted anything on there, because I don’t really expect he’ll see or read that beyond seeing/hearing/reading my thoughts. I find those pages awful, to be frank – a mass hysterical outlet where people post shit for themselves, to look good, to show to those around still (rather than the one they’re dedicated to) how fucking caring and whatever they are. Self validation at its worst.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand that maybe this sort of page is important and serves a very valid function. In this day and age when so much of life seems to play out online, I do get that we also want to remember our loved ones in this arena. But if we were – me and the other 300 people on Matt’s page – to sit around, we wouldn’t all just be making heart shapes with our hands (instead of emoticons), make kissing sounds (to replace x’s) or parrot each others’ I-miss-yous. No, we’d more likely seek comfort in each other, share tears and laugh at all the wonderful memories and the hilarious things Matt said and did. The Facebook page set up in his memory isn’t like that, bar for the occasional photo, but those are rare. So I don’t want to say it’s wrong, it’s just for me personally that it seems a little unnatural.
Do I remove Matt? I can’t quite bring myself to do it. Now, just like when he was still with us, I am filled with love when I see him there in my friends list amongst the others I care about. Now, just like back then, seeing his face cheers me up. His face, his eyes that always had that mysterious and naughty glint, his smile.
One Christmas, he had the band playing at our local bar do a song dedicated to me. A song about a girl who went off into the world but belonged at home. No, no – it wasn’t written for me, in fact it’s this really cheesy tune by some Swedish once-was, but I guess he picked it because he felt the lyrics applied to me. Throughout the whole song, he glanced over at me, his eyes as warm as his smile. I hate being the centre of attention but I cherish that moment still.
There was never anything between us in that way, perhaps just a connection or a “maybe” left hanging somehow. Our connection was that of true friendship, I guess, rooted in our teenage years and memories of sitting in a field on a warm summer’s night (those nights in June and July when it’s still like daylight in Sweden at 11pm) with a guitar and belting out Creedence Clearwater Revival songs on top of our lungs, drinking lukewarm lager out of the can and putting the world to rights.
But his Facebook profile – both his own profile and the remembrance page – are full of ridiculous comments now. I let the cursor rest over “unfriend” but can’t make the click happen. Perhaps I’ll leave it for now. I just know that the bouquet I anonymously left on his grave earlier this year and the tears I shed when placing it there are more likely to reach him than any fucking Facebook crap where people seem to try to out-feel each other. Perhaps it is a much needed and heart felt outlet, but those pages do tend to make me very uneasy. Just seems a little contrived to me.
When I want to feel close to Matt and remember him, it’s sitting in a field and with some difficulty (Matt was the guitar player, not me – I only know five chords and have to compensate by singing more loudly should I attempt a song exceeding those five) strumming out ‘Green River’ or ‘Bad Moon Rising’ on a badly tuned guitar. Or if not on a summer’s night in Sweden, I raise my glass of wine and make a nod to heaven out on the balcony here in west London in a toast to my friend, or whisper ‘I miss you’ when I light a candle. Not putting an emoticon heart on a public page.
Still, I am faltering, it seems cold and heartless to click on ‘unfollow’ or ‘unfriend’.