It is Hard to Reconnect
The New York Times reports that more individuals over the age of 65 are creating accounts on the social networking site more than ever, but this age group also has the highest mortality rate in the U.S., which does not help the situation. In an interview with the periodical, Tamu Townsend stated, “Sometimes it’s quite comforting when their faces show up. But at some point it doesn’t become comforting to see that. The service is telling you to reconnect with someone you can’t. If it’s someone that has passed away recently enough, it smarts.” Facebook regularly sends reminders to users to reconnect with individuals in their friends list if there has not been a lot of interaction between the two.
In an attempt to address this growing problem and not accidentally label a Facebook user as dead, the site is allowing users to report deceased friends. Those who report a deceased user must provide proof the individual has indeed passed, such as a link to an obituary or news article, and fill out a form. Facebook then strips the deceased user’s profile page of all their personal information, leaves only the “Wall” where friends of the deceased person can post messages and stops the social networking site from sending messages to users to reconnect.
The Problem with Deceased User Profiles on Facebook’s
When individuals report a deceased user to Facebook staff, the site states that it “…sets privacy so that only confirmed friends can see the profile or locate it in search. The Wall remains so that friends and family can leave posts in remembrance” (emphasis added). Therefore, if you learn that a family friend died, for example, and you learn they had a Facebook account, you cannot post anything to the individual’s wall—or even find it—unless you were already confirmed “friends.” This does not leave much room for those wishing to pay their respects, especially if they do not have an account with the social networking site.
While it is a good idea to let Facebook staff know about a user’s death, they should also consider setting up a public online memorial for the departed individual as well. Online memorial sites offer free accounts where users can write an individual’s life story, post pictures and video and create a memorial album and guest book. After an online memorial site is created for an individual, those wishing to add memories of a friend or family member can do so without having to create an account, unlike with social networking sites.