Facebook’s decision to maintain profiles of the deceased makes macabre sense
As we all sprint to keep up with technology’s evolution, what seems foreign one day is old hat the next. The first time I learned about a death via my Facebook feed, it was startling, almost tacky. It seemed unseemly that the end of a life was just one more bit of chatter, wedged between holiday photos and work-related grumblings. Within a year, the online memorial group has become an accepted ritual of mourning, as commonplace and imperfect as wearing black or 40 days of prayer.
On Tuesday, Facebook announced that profiles of the deceased would remain online, with a few adjustments. Only people already on the dead person’s friends list will be able to find them in name searches, and the profile will be locked to new comments. The decision came after a slew of users complained that Facebook’s “suggestions” function – a list of people an algorithm thinks might be your friends – kept suggesting they connect with dead loved ones. Presumably, pages of people known to be deceased will now be kept out of the feed.
The 300-million member social networking site might be the most notable URL to deal with the death issue, but it’s not the first. Other social networking sites, like MySpace and Livejournal, have similar policies, which keep profiles of the deceased frozen in time. “Death is inescapable and the Internet isn’t far behind – it’s everywhere,” emails Richard Smith, a technologically inclined communications professor at Simon Fraser University. “It isn’t surprising that it is part of our death rituals. When you think about how people recognize, commiserate, sympathize, and rail against death, you’ll see that the Internet is more of an extender/amplifier than a transformative thing.”
Such as gathering to share grief. Mourning 2.0 makes this age-old practice accessible regardless of location. Those who live far away from the grave and funeral now have a “place” where it’s all right to memorialize.
I just don’t like Facebook. It seems like a blog on training wheels. When I check out, hopefully after I’m 100 years old, I’d like this blog and my old site maintained for the enjoyment of others for at least 100 years after I’m gone. Of course, I’d rather we figure out how to regenerate our bodies so I can continue to have many more great adventures. Not super likely, but also not impossible!