April 22, 2015

The Soul of the Internet: Finding Meaning in Facebook.

Jerry "Woody"

The other day I was on my computer scrolling through the endless news feed that is Facebook, when one photo among the thousands of others I had passed caught my eye.

It was a picture of a man standing on a boat dock holding a fish. There was nothing particularly enticing about the picture, the man was in no extravagant clothing, the fish was not one hundred pounds, and he was not standing in a particularly interesting location.

What caught my interest was that neither the fish nor the man in this picture was still alive today.

Expecting it not to work, I decided to click on the tag for this photo to see the profile of the man, and I was surprised to find that it was still active. He wasn’t posting anything from the great beyond or anything, but other people had continued to post on his wall after he had passed away.

No one in his family had deactivated his profile and the people at Facebook hadn’t removed the account from their database.

Instead of it being an empty space though, people were still interacting with his Facebook profile, kind of like one visits a gravestone or a memorial. He was gone, but his personality profile was still here, his pictures, his information, his status’s over the years, even his relationship and history. Everything was still there, but he was not.

The internet is a source of endless information about our world. It is constantly said that the internet is written in ink because everything that is posted or written within its walls will remain there forever in a database of endless information. In today’s society, people are using web services to create their own profiles so that they too can exist on the internet.

They post pictures, videos, statuses, thoughts, ideas, information, location indicators, feelings, relationships and more in order to exist on the internet. What’s more, is that all of this information is downloaded and saved into a database in a timeline that shows our profiles from the minute we signed up to the moment we log off.

If we think about the meaning of life and the soul in terms of the internet, then our computers have become the bodies to house our profile like souls.

Our souls come into existence as we do, the moment we sign up or are born into this world. We load our information, our personalities, and the essence of who we are into these profiles. If a picture is worth a thousand words, imagine what a thousand pictures could say about you. If our soul contains the essence of our thoughts, then a compilation of our statuses would express what we feel and what we think on the most fundamental and basic level.

We input meaning into our lives and our profiles with the important moments we decide to post and share with the world. Those moments being the most important to us, and what we use to define ourselves. Those moments of meaning being our accomplishments, relationships, trips, and anything else we find as stand out points to show what makes us who we are.

We move through our lives building our souls on the internet, we can see our growth through a timeline that dates every moment as it happens, we can pinpoint who we are through our posts and we build this essence of who we are until we are logged off. Our soul stops growing, our profile stops at whatever it has become, the timeline ends and it cannot be deleted, but it doesn’t go anywhere.

What creates our soul is what gave us meaning in our lives.

It is these moments we post about that define us and give us meaning. These moments shape and define us as who we are…what makes our soul. Our profile does live on after we log off or our physical self can no longer sustain, but it does so not by moving forward but instead by remaining where it is, an in-erasable monument and paradoxical portrayal of who you are and who you were.

There is only a finite amount of time in which one can build the soul, and once that time runs out, the soul continues to exist where it is, not in a great world beyond.

And what if it exists not for you, but for others?

What if our souls are accessed by the people who are still able to do so? To see who we were and also who we continue to be.

Today we exist on the internet, we live and die there, and it is only fitting that a part of us continues to live on there after we no longer can change our status or add a new photo. It is the events we decide to share and illuminate that signify the important points of our time on the internet that then accumulate into what is our profile. Through the important events and moments in our lives, we find meaning and that meaning helps to shape us, a final soul that is intended to live on forever.

Meaning in our lives does not necessarily fulfill us in the way we would expect. It does not make us happier, more accomplished or satisfied with life, but instead meaning provides us with the tools and building blocks to create and define who we are, how we will continue to be remembered after we die, and what went into the creation of our eternal soul.


Relephant read:

The Truth Behind Facebook Profiles.


Author: Noah Dach

Assistant Editor: Rebecca Lynch / Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Jerry “Woody”/flickr

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