Facebook & Death

Did that get your attention?  Let me explain.

The other day I sent birthday greetings to someone that I have not seen or spoken with in, quite possibly, decades.    Nevertheless, he has been a Facebook friend.  I try to send birthday greetings to FB friends, something that I have turned into a ritual, of sorts.  Look, I’m sentimental.

Well, a few days later I received a note on FB from a mutual friend informing me that the person to whom I had sent birthday greetings had been dead for several years.  I was stunned and embarrassed.  But I was also angry.  I was embarrassed that I did not know.  I was saddened by the information.  But I was angry with FB, specifically, why was my FB friend’s account still active?

I have had this experience at least one other time and it is very different from getting friend requests from “dead people,” i.e., friend requests where someone who has passed away has had their account hacked.  I get that, it irritates me, but I understand that.

What I am concerned with is where the accounts are still active.  I know that there are those out there who like the idea that the accounts stay active so that we can be reminded of our dead, departed friends and we can send birthday greetings.  Maybe it is just me, but I am not one to say “happy birthday” to someone who has passed away.  How is it happy?  On the anniversary of the birth of my first born–who died three days after birth–why would I say “happy birthday, Bianca”?  In what world would that be happy?

I hit this problem once before after sending birthday greetings to someone who turned out to have been dead.  I received a nice, though strangely apologetic note from the family of the departed friend, regretting that I had not been informed of the death of their relative.  I felt embarrassed by this and uneasy that the family had been put in that position.

My solution?  It’s simple:  if there is no activity on someone’s FB account for one year, i.e., if they have not posted or reposted or acknowledged a post, FB should send an email to their email account asking them to confirm their continued interest in FB.  Should FB not receive a reply within a given time, e.g., one week, FB should close down the account.  If it turned out that the person was carrying out an expedition in northern Greenland for a year and had no Internet access, they can always create a new account.

Forgive me.  Maybe I just awoke on the wrong side of the bed.

2 thoughts on “Facebook & Death

  1. I was on Garry’s email and just read this. Yes Bill I think people keep those FB accounts to relive memories and have a place to think they can leave a msg to those who are gone. But something at the top of the page saying it’s a memorial page stating when the person passed. And maybe I visit Garry’s email for the same reason and it’s time to close it.

  2. As always, you have made thoughtful points. I have felt similarly about birthday “celebrations,” usually online, of people who have died because of police brutality or racist violence like Trayvon Martin and Breonna Taylor. I understand people’s desire to remember and honor them, but as you point out in such tragic circumstances the word “happy” does not apply.

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