Online after death

Copyright David Wright, licensed for reuse under Creative Commons

This tweet arrived on my feed the other day from the brilliant  ÜberFacts:

What happens to your Facebook profile when you die?

The Digital Beyond links to Facebook, where it says:

It is our policy to memorialize the account of a deceased person.

You can also request for a friend’s or relative’s page to be removed.

When I was eighteen, a boy from my old school passed away suddenly. I’m not sure what Facebook’s policy was at that time but a group was quickly set up, which still exists, for friends to pay their respects.

I doubt death crossed Mark Zuckerberg’s mind when he was writing the code that would become Facebook in his Harvard room during those heady days in 2003 and 2004.

But the ceremony last Sunday at the Cenotaph gave us a powerful reminder of the human need to remember the dead. Humans have always treasured the creations of friends, family or admired people who are no longer here. We gather around spaces that have some connection to a dead person in the real world such as their home, their school or their favourite places to visit.

In the beginning…

It’s no different online. But the main digital difference is the sheer amount of personal information available. Anybody wishing to build up a picture of my life would have a far easier time from the moment my online presence really began: when I joined Facebook on 21st July 2007.

It would be even easier as of 25th January 2011 when I joined Twitter. In the last 661 days, at the time of writing I have tweeted or retweeted 2175 times, an average of just over 3 a day.

Together, they show my life over the last four years: who’s been in it; where I’ve been and what I’ve been thinking about from my choice of reading material to seeing the Taj Mahal.

My generation will be the most recorded generation in history. Perhaps, if and when I’m a grandparent, I won’t need to bore them with Uncle Albert-style “during the war” stories.

I’ll just tell them my Facebook password.

(Image copyright David Wright, link here, reproduced under Creative Commons)


3 thoughts on “Online after death

  1. Thanks Judith for the link. In a draft I thought about referring to Who Do You Think You Are? and how people won’t need family history so much. As it happens, my mum and my grandad (on my dad’s side) have my family tree pretty well covered…


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