connected to a dead man

on LinkedIn. In real life

I met him only once.

Talked to him on the phone thrice.

He was nice. He

was also old. 80, I think.

Drank coffee and

wore gray trousers. He smiled large

with nearly perfect teeth framed

in plastic pink.

If I disconnect from him, cut him free,

somewhere in the Great Beyond

(where he currently resides)

will he feel the sever of my

digital disloyalty?

Will he blur and spark

as he begins


f  a   d    e

an aged Cheshire

indentured to our memory

as in Kevin Brockmeier’s

The Brief History of the Dead?

And what if he has something to say

from the Great Beyond? “Sure,” you say,

“If he has something profound to say

from the grave, why would he choose LinkedIn to do it?”

Well, why wouldn’t he?


Will he haunt my bedside, asking,


did you give up on me?

What –

What did our connection cost you?”

Will I stutter and clear my throat, mumbling

something about how my LinkedIn profile

is only for real people,

and will he stare

and tap his foot

and point his ghostly cursor to my outstanding invitation to

Kevin Bacon

who is clearly not the real

Kevin Bacon,

Independent Entertainment Professional,

but an equally faceless smirk-bearing entity

of superstar SizzleLean

allowing me


to jump the queue

from 6 degrees to a mere


I’m connected to dead man and

I do not know what

to do with



TAGS: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

ERIKA RAE is the author of Devangelical, a humor memoir about growing up Evangelical (Emergency Press, December, 2012). She is editor-in-chief at Scree Magazine and nonfiction editor at The Nervous Breakdown. Erika earned her MA in Lit­er­a­ture and Lin­guis­tics from the Uni­ver­sity of Hong Kong and to this day can ask where the bath­room is in Can­tonese, although it is likely that she will not under­stand the answer. In her dream world, she fan­cies her­self a kung fu mas­ter clev­erly dis­guised as a gen­tle moun­tain dweller, eagerly antic­i­pat­ing dan­ger at the bot­tom of every latte. When she is not whipping one of her 3 children and denying them bread with their broth, she runs an ISP with her husband from their home in the Colorado Rockies.

62 responses to “Connected to a Dead Man on LinkedIn”

  1. Irene Zion says:

    He counted on your fragile lifeline, Erika.
    Surely you wouldn’t cut that thread, just in case.

  2. dwoz says:

    I should be so lucky. I’m connected to 237 social media marketing gurus on LinkedIn. It’s like 3 card monte players trying to scam each other, or an Amway convention.

    Nothing says “yeah, I’m unemployed” more succinctly than a LinkedIn job title of “President and CEO of the hottest new relationship marketing firm”

    I’ll take the dead guy any day of the week.

  3. Erika Rae says:

    LinkedIn cracks me up – and your description is awesome. If I could add one thing, though: It’s like 3 card monte players trying to scam each other, or an Amway convention…at Chuck e Cheese. But I have to say, it’s not all bad. I’ve seen quite a few people get jobs through the connections they make there. I’d pass on my dead guy’s info to you, but I don’t think he’s taking any new connections.

  4. Becky Palapala says:

    I’m friends with a dead guy on facebook.

    He friended me after a brief bantering exchange on a mutual friend’s status update, then, like, 2 months later, he died. I don’t think I ever said anything do him beyond that initial exchange.

    And I was all, to the mutual friend, “What’s going on? That guy who just friended me died?” and he was like, “Yeah. He had Leukemia. He’d been sick for some time.”

    And I was kind of mad at the guy. Going around bantering with and friending people when he was about to die without ever telling them he’s about to die. And then I couldn’t decide if that was a normal reaction or a really selfish one or if I wasn’t angry at all, but just really creeped out that the space on facebook he occupied looked no different whether he was dead or alive.

    His mom still posts updates from his page from time to time, which I find terrifying.

    • Gloria says:

      Oh my god. Does she? That’s profoundly depressing.

      • Becky Palapala says:

        Well, she doesn’t post, like, AS him, but there his ghostly gravatar will appear in my feed with some message from her about a leukemia fundraiser or a party being thrown in honor of his 1-year deathversary.

        On the one hand, maybe just the best way to get the word out to your deceased son’s friends, rather than having to friend them all, but on the other hand…she does consistently post to his wall, too, telling him what she did that day, what she’s doing with his things, etc.

        Just weird. Weird.

        Is control of my social media network something I have to write into my will? Like, all my internet passwords and stuff, so someone can let cyber-friends know that I’ve knocked off?

        Just had another weird revelation. A friend of mine from high school drowned in Russia a few years back, and I just realized that he has no facebook profile. I was friends with him on myspace, but never facebook. In my head, I thought, “Wow. He never made it as far as facebook.” As if the lemming parade from one social media site to the next is an actual marker of chronological time, like age.

        • James D. Irwin says:

          That is pretty freaky.

          Every now and then I notice someone hasn’t posted a status for ages and wondered if they’ve died. Usually it turns out that I just hid them from my feed because they were annoying and then I get disappointed that they are still alive…

          Could you delete the guy as a friend? Is that appropriate? Would it cause hauntings etc?

          In all honesty I’m a little disappointed only one person got in touch with me to see if I was alright after I closed my profile…

    • Erika Rae says:

      It is weird, isn’t it? And especially if you have someone posting on their behalf. The cool thing is that he got to be the person he wanted to be online, though, even though in “real life” he was no doubt handicapped by his circumstances. Heh. Actually, that’s pretty much what a lot of us do, isn’t it?

      • Yeah, we’re definitely collecting Creepy Stories Of The Social Networking Age: I FOUND OUT my friend had died from Facebook.

        She was one of my two best girlfriends in high school. We fell out of touch in college but then in our late 30s began talking again and exchanged many intimate emails and occasionally got together. Then one day I didn’t hear from her anymore. Because there was a big “precedent” for this with her–i.e. our not having spoken for nearly 20 years after going off to separate colleges!–I confess that I did not think all that much of it; I thought she was “like that” and that sooner or later I would hear from her again, and that it was just one of those relationships where there are long gaps, but then you pick up where you left off and are suddenly very close again.

        In fact, I had stopped hearing from her because she had DIED. In a car accident. But because I hadn’t seen her family since we were teens, nobody notified me. Her family had no access to her email and didn’t know how to get in to her FB account, so I never received the news.

        Her sister, at long last, must have somehow cracked the code of her FB password or something because suddenly, out of nowhere, with her profile pic next to the announcement, FB was informing me–and many of her other friends–about her death.

        I’m just not sure how to feel about this. On the one hand, without social media, it is entirely possible that I would still not know she had died. I would, eventually, just have concluded that she really did permanently blow me off, and perhaps this would have colored my memories of her in some way. Clearly there is a good argument to be made for the fact that I would rather know of her death than remain uninformed. I got to grieve and have some closure, etc.

        On the other hand, finding out on FB was beyond shocking and creepy . . . and there may be (not sure, but perhaps) a valid argument for the fact that if you are not integral enough to someone’s life that you would organically hear of their death by word of mouth, maybe you do not NEED this information, and you would be just as happy to think that person was living on somewhere, going about her business?

        I’m glad I know. But being FB friends with a ghost who announces its own death is definitely like some kind of surrealist horror story come to fruition.

        • Erika Rae says:

          Oh, wow. That is strange. And I agree with you on both counts. Good to know…but maybe if she’s not close enough to you in real life, it’s better to not know. On second thought, no – it’s good to know. It’s just the thought of *FaceBook* being the medium on which you learned about it that I think I viscerally object to. Someday when FaceBook is also just known as The Internet, maybe it won’t be so weird.

          On other topics, I had lunch with Bryan T today. He’s so awesome. (Yep – in Seattle at the moment.)

  5. I guess I will add another similar story as I think everyone is connected to social media tombstones. And only more will come as the years pass. Anyway, there’s a former TV news anchor. I even have video of interviewing him from a few years ago. He was somewhere around Salt Lake City a few months ago, letting his teenager drive his SUV. The teen lost control of the vehicle and crashed, ejecting his father, who was immediately killed.

    His Facebook page always pops up. I keep considering deleting him. On his page right now are all of those “Vote on my photo” apps and another that says, “I don’t think that ***** is sexy.”

    I probably accidentally send him invites to Facebook events.

    I probably should delete him.

    But then there is something about being connected to the dead.

    • Erika Rae says:

      I think as long as someone is still connected to social media, they’re not fully dead yet. It’s a bit rough, but it’s a theory. Someday it may just be the basis for revitalizing the brain after cryogenic preservation. Hmmm. Anyone got a burrito?

      • dwoz says:

        I have a friend I went to high school with, who lost his daughter in a car accident, some number of years on now.

        He visits her page, much as he would visit her stone marker at the cemetery. Various other people do to. It’s a memorial. The same kind of catharsis.

        But you’re right, it’s a kind of immortality. They want the kind of immortality that writers have. No writer has died until the last copy of the manuscript is gone.

      • Uche Ogbuji says:

        But is that Black Knight Not Dead Yet? Huh? Huh?

  6. Gloria says:

    I say leave him. He ain’t hurtin’ anything. Besides, he beefs up your numbers.

  7. dwoz says:

    Two years ago, I started writing an AI program,

    a sophisticated Rules Engine implementation that could respond to current events and fabricate a text reply.

    It was set up to respond in my name to about a dozen specific forum and wordpress based websites,

    and to the usual suspects of social media sites.

    A year ago it was deployed, into the cloud.

    He would send me a heartbeat message every week.

    Hello, I am here, he would say.

    Then they stopped.

    I haven’t heard from him since February.

    But I’m not lonely.

    Rule 69 has been invoked, since four months have passed.

    I know what to do.


  8. Matildakay says:

    I enjoyed your poem about being connected to a dead man on linkedin. I too am connected to a dead man on Facebook and email and cell phone contact lists. This man died young, only 38, and I can’t seem to delete the connection in fear he’d be gone forever. I suppose for the same reason his mother keeps his Facebook account alive. And yet we are so quick to “unfriend” the living out of anger or annoyance. It seems like our priorities are backwards. 

    • Oops that would be me. Dang it I hate when you’re right, Matildakay. But then, dead people don’t talk shit. They’re silent. They are echoes of the living. And again, they are silent! hahaha.

      • Erika Rae says:

        Nick, if you die before me, I fully expect you to haunt me by talking shit to me on FB. (please?) I will do the same for you should the situation be reversed.

    • Erika Rae says:

      Hi Matildakay! Good to see you. Maybe what we need is a special “section” on our FB and LI. Like a cemetery. We can relegate our dearly-but-not-digitally-departed to that section then. This way, we don’t have to get rid of them per se…but we can keep the ghosts together. Where they belong. We can still visit their albums when we’re ready. Then, when they pop out of their e-cemeteries and back into the general friends/connection list, we can get all spooked and make status updates about it. Somebody who calls themselves an e-xorcist can then come in and chase them back.

      This is so awesome.

  9. James D. Irwin says:

    I got an e-mailly adverty thing from linkedin earlier.

    I’m going to have to ask…

    what the fuck is it? some sort of internet social club?

    • Erika Rae says:

      As much as I love to tease it, LinkedIn has its place. It’s a professional social network site – as in, you post info about your professional history and then connect with anyone you’ve ever met or done business with. You can join groups of people with similar pro interests from around the world, check job boards, etc. No shots of your embarrassing drunk night out or a telescope down your pants. If you know how to use it, you can actually effectively find a job through it. As a recruiter, I saw that happen quite a bit (recruiters are rampant on there – they (formerly “we”) use it as a tool to find candidates for jobs that companies have hired us to find). You can also use it to broadcast news about a product, etc. Plus, it’s a great way to see who your business connections know for the purpose of trying to get in with someone. And LinkedIn paid me to write this about them. Join up. Many TNBers are on there.

      • James D. Irwin says:

        I can fit my professional history on the back of a stamp. And still have room for an intricate doodle…

        I’m sort of torn here though. Because, with the exception of Twitter, I’ve decided to abandon the whole social networking thing. The problem that although I feel a lot better about myself, it might be counter-productive. But I’m not really sure how.

        I’ve got a feeling I may end up living by myself on a farm in the middle of nowhere slowly drinking myself to death and ranting about technology…

  10. I’ve always assumed the dead will drop me a line one day. For me, it makes the little red facebook notifications an even higher first-thing-in-the-morning priority.

    But what we really need to worry about is the day that Kevin Bacon dies and the world ceases to be connected at all.

    • Erika Rae says:

      I heard Kevin Bacon on Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me (on NPR) a couple of weeks ago. He was so funny. He was talking about how he had a disguise made for him so he can go out in public, but he hates wearing it. When asked why, he said something to the effect of, “People are mean to me.” The host then says something like, “Why? You mean because they’re not letting you cut to the front of the line or offering you champagne in the Home Depot?” and Kevin Bacon says, “Yeah. Hey, I’ll admit it. I’m used to this charmed life I lead. The attention is nice. It’s hard people thinking I’m a normal person.”

      Connection has its perks, I guess.

  11. Elizabeth says:

    I think Zadie Smith said the same thing in her ginormous FB essay. That in a way, if you die online, you’re not dead, or at least you’re not dead to those who survive you and write on your Facebook wall. She was totally freaked out by it, but like you, I’m not so sure it’s a bad thing. I mean, is it that different than when people talk to ghosts?

    Still, if I die, I really, really hope my mom doesn’t start posting as me.

    • Erika Rae says:

      I’m feeling suddenly inspired to always make sure I have a couple of TNB posts in the queue, scheduled to be posted a month or two out. This way, if I die, I will freak everyone the hell out by suddenly posting postmortem. So fun. Sure wish I could be around to see it.

  12. First of all, I second Irwin’s question above. But also, I’m a little fascinated with this subject of death in the world of social media. Facebook keeps suggesting in the “people I might know” column someone I know has died … it’s very odd, these ghostly traces reaching across the internet long after someone’s gone. I’m not sure what to make of it yet, but I’m glad you’re addressing it in some way. Oh, keep your old LinkedIn guy around. Sort of like a modern “Rose for Miss Emily.”

  13. I tried to call you today. Quit acting all busy and stuff. By the way, I died this morning. This is a pre-recorded comment.

  14. Joe Daly says:


    If you’ve seen Poultergeist, then you have all the answers you need.

    I keep getting LinkedIn invitations from people, which unnerves me. I work from home, listening to music and writing essays and stories. What professional in their right mind would want to connect to me? Cheese n’ rice… Get with it, Captains of Industry- I’m way out of that game.

    Anyway, yeah, you drop the dead guy and you’re signing on for a lifetime of pain. And you’ll get a crazy grey stripe in your hair from all the fear and stress.

    • Erika Rae says:

      Thank you for saving me from the gray stripe. That chick in The Stand had one and I wasn’t so sure about that look. On the other hand, Rogue pulled it off OK…nah. I’ll keep him. Not worth the internal struggle.

  15. Like an online Weekend at Bernie’s…

    I never really understood LinkedIn, but then I suppose I never realised that it was intended for communication with the deceased. Right now I’ve got a bunch of pending invitations from some prick who sends death threats to me on my website… which is strange, really, when you think about it. I mean, who the hell adds someone on LinkedIn that they supposedly want to kill. Then, if he did kill me he’d also have a dead guy to deal with.

  16. If I read a poem by Lord Byron, isn’t that essentially the same thing as getting a dead man’s email?

  17. jmblaine says:

    Maybe he’s already
    sending message

    ye are all dead
    & I am
    finally alive


    erika, enjoy
    your cocoa…..

  18. Perhaps a better question is what is he going to do with you. Your professional information is already spreading like wildfire through various networks of disembodied souls.

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