Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Death on Facebook

Speaking of death, I read an interesting article on a topic I have considered many times. How does Facebook handle the death of its members? Remember my friend G? It's been three years and I still get birthday reminders on Facebook. I am sure I'm not the only one of his friends who sees these as a painful reminder of his death. Still, it would feel strangely cruel to defriend him just because he's passed away (in the same way it is difficult to erase a dead person's phone number from your phonebook).

In the article, Liza Campbell mentions how one of her deceased friends makes a new friend a good four months after passing away. I too have seen that happen.

I know many prefer for the dead person's Facebook page to still exist, as it becomes part of the grieving process to look at old pictures and updates of the deceased. Would it not be relatively simple though, to say that upon the receipt of a copy of a death notice/certificate, Facebook will at least disable the deceased's account from being able to make new friends and from having birthday notices sent out?

Or am I thinking in too simple terms?


Anonymous said...

I've recently had to deal with this too. Facebook keeps asking me to reconnect with a dead friend and wish him happy birthday.
It's the argument that these corporate platforms own us even when we die. Our lives have become commodified as we use these platforms to lay bare the intimate details of our existence.
Yet here I am performing on their stage.

Maya Mame said...

That is a scary thought, but very true.

Still, I decided to check my friend G's Facebook page today, just out of curiosity. I realised, three years on his friends are still sending him wishes on his birthday (probably because of those reminders that I try to ignore) and his family seem to appreciate it.

I guess there is some value to a person being continuously reminded by people all over the world of how much their deceased partner/parent/child was loved and is remembered.

I just hope it is worth us selling our souls to the social networks.

Abena Serwaa said...

Saturday marks 1 year since the very sudden passing of a great guy in the class below me in high school. He dj-ed on the side as a hobby and his facebook profile picture was changed into a poster advertising a show he was doing the night before he passed away. The profile pic is still the same advertising a show on 8th July. Everybody continues to write on his wall including his girlfriend who still can't get over his passing. I think his facebook page has become a sort of online shrine of some sort.Somehow I think it helps. When it was his birthday we all wrote wishes. Including my friend P who told him to have a great day! She sent me a msg later asking why I had put RIP after my post. Sadly she had not heard.

Maya Mame said...

Oh, that is terrible, Abena. I can only imagine her shock at realising he was gone.

But, yes, there do seem to be some therapeutic aspects of keeping a deceased's profile 'alive' on Facebook.

Perhaps that's why Facebook has done nothing about it?


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