How Facebook has turned the normal processes of dying and grieving inside out

From The Next Web:

On November 9th, 2010 an old friend posted the following status update on Facebook: “Dying. Pain. Fear. Missing all my old friends, especially from Edmonton. Looking fwd to seeing Pete tomorrow. Also my lovely Maggie – I love and miss you too. Good luck with your Betty Moon gig in LA. Might be my last post but hope not. Sorry for all those I couldn’t write directly. I love you all. If this is the last post, goodbye.”

Over the next few weeks, the death of Chris “Dexter” Bates played out on the social networking website like a macabre reality show. Old friends posted memories and photos. Cancer survivors sent advice and encouragement, while Bates even put up a cell-phone shot of the malignant tumours eating through his neck.

This was a far cry from Facebook’s status quo as a vanity press, gossip mill and a place to post photos of your lunch. Terminal illnesses have never fallen under the cache-all banner of social networking, but Bates, a stalwart of the Edmonton and later the Toronto underground rock scenes, clung to punk’s first commandment: There are no taboos. On his Facebook page he scorned censorship as “fundamentally wrong and morally weak”, hence the photo of his neck, hence the news that by November 12th he had five tumours consuming his throat and pressing against his windpipe so the doctors had to put in a tracheotomy tube.

Later that night, the bassist for groups like SMJ, GOD, and the Demon Flowers wrote: “Survived my carotid blowout; scary as fuck like a gore flick. NOT how I wanna go. Cancer has covered whole area so it is a matter of time. Just wanna go to sleep before that happens. Gotta go for tonight, love to all. Have a wake for me guys wherever you are.”

As it became clear that his days were numbered in single digits, old friends put up photos of them together in cheerier times, comics he’d drawn, and they shared their favourite memories from the early ‘80s when, out on the Canadian prairies, punks were on a par with rats and roaches, and rednecks in pickup trucks would stop their vehicles to hurl verbal abuse at us or chase us down the street with baseball bats.

Chris playing bass before his illness

Candy Wardman posted: “chris the memories i have of you. i remember one day when we were walking down 109 st and some person driving by threw food at us screaming stuff i was about to respond when you said to me don’t lower yourself to their level like black flag’s song “rise above” i took that moment and have carried it with me and apply daily to my life even now. your energy transcends all time. thank you for your friendship, wisdom, and love.”

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