What Happens To Your Facebook When You Die?
Throughout history, some of the greatest thinkers ever born have pondered over the timeless mystery of death, of what lies beyond for our mortal souls when our hearts cease to beat and we breath our last. But while the age-old question of our eternal fate goes unanswered, other, arguably more pertinent ones remain — namely, what’s going to happen to our Facebook profiles when we die?
Sure, Mark Zuckerberg as the keeper of our online lives has attracted a fair share of criticism for Facebook’s handling of user’s private data, but just how does he plan on dealing with our online and offline deaths? After all, if Facebook has its way, it will outlive each and every one of us, meaning its pages could soon turn into a virtual graveyard.
To answer this question, we must turn to the Facebook Help Center. According to the FAQ section, Facebook allows for berieved family members to decide whether the deceased’s account is to be deleted, or turned turned into a ‘memorial page’ that only allows friends access and post on the (former) user’s profile.
Facebook, perhaps not so surprisingly, doesn’t make it terribly easy for loved ones to wrangle the reigns of a dead user’s page from the social networking site’s cold grip.
IMPORTANT: Under penalty of perjury, this form is solely for requesting removal of a deceased person’s account or for memorialization special requests.
In order to process the request to remove a profile or any other special request, we will first need to verify your relationship to the deceased user. Please fill out the following form and we will be able to further assist you. Also, please upload attachments of the following two additional pieces of information to this report.
1.Proof of death (e.g., an obituary, news article or the deceased’s death certificate)
2.Verification that you are an immediate family member or executor (e.g., the deceased’s birth certificate or proof of authority under local law that you are the lawful representative of the deceased or his/her estate)
In other words, Facebook makes removing the profile of the dead approximately 1000 times more difficult than for the living to sign up in the first place — not unlike a deal made with the Devil. Chances are, I suspect, that most dead users’ pages will never be submitted for deletion or ‘memorial’, but rather left untouched, its status eternally unupdated in pergatory-like limbo.
Putting this into perspective, it’s fascinating to consider how social media will cope with our mortallity, and just how often death must strike in the seemingly vibrant world of Facebook. With well over 500 million active users on Facebook, hundreds, if not thousands of user could be perishing every day. And, as the site’s primary demographic ages, Facebook will undoubtably do its best to keep them signing-on till the bitter end — feeding us a steady stream of Farmville updates until we finally buy the farm in real life.
Who knows, if Facebook is still around in 50 years, its pages could seem more like a online catacomb than a place to stalk your friends. As we, the first generation of users, die off, perhaps our great-children might remember us less as the Founding Fathers of social media — and more by the pictures of our drunken selves doing keg-stands in college. After all, our digital footprints will continue to embarrass us long after our soul’s have logged out of our bodies.