Screen Shot 2014-12-12 at 2.31.44 pmCurrent statistics indicate that 3 of 5 of the deceased had a Facebook account when they were still living. This accounts for approximately 60% of the deceased with an account. It is not surprising that this percentage is incrementing year by year, with respect to the growing use of social media in the 21st century. Of the living population, give or take 70% have a social media account of some sort. With an average of 415 pieces of content posted on Facebook every year, just imagine how much data is stored in the Facebook cloud.

And what happens in the cloud after you die?

Nothing. Everything once stored in the cloud – stays in the cloud.

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This raises ethical questions – has the Internet just turned the web into a virtual cemetery? What is etiquette of online grieving? How do you even practice this?

With 4,329 Facebook users who die every day (1.78 million Facebook users dying every year!) it is only a matter of time until the exponential rate of deaths of people with Facebook accounts, grow to ridiculous amounts. There are endless possibilities with the stored data, including a digital resurrection derived from a mind file that has captured an entire life’s experience over the period of living.

Surely, no one will do that?

Being optimistic is unarguably an embraced approach. However, setting the example of evolutionary criminal activities was the recent event of the Sydney Siege. Understanding the powerful influence of social media, the main perpetrator to the act had utilised this medium to leverage for his demands. He forced the hostages of the siege to post videos of his commands to garner worldwide attention. This seemingly new phenomenon of social media is evidently abused in the new generation of violence.

So what happens to your Facebook account after death? There are 5 distinguishable options and each is viable according to what the individual had in their will or in the discretion of what their immediate family decides for them.

1. BUSINESS AS USUAL
Facebook will not understand that the user has passed away, so it will operate as per usual. If there is content that an immediate family member feel is uncomfortable to the eye, they must request for a password through court subpoena. This is the only way for them to remove inappropriate content, and the degree of lenience depends on the state laws of that respective country and its liaison with Facebook. Cyberanthropologist, Michaelanne Dye, claims the existence of a healthy benefit to maintaining a tie with the deceased whether it be through social media or spiritually.

“Continuing with an active Facebook is perspective-wise, a natural way for people to work through grief over the loss of a loved one.”

Respecting the active account with unconditional respect will propel the mourning period as close family and friends steer towards acceptance.

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2. MEMORIALISATION

There are a host of capabilities that are completely disabled from utility when this appeal is adopted. This involves the removal of the user from public search, automatic app activities or even from ‘suggestions’ list. Certain rules one must adhere to when facilitating this procedure and they include:

  • Being an immediate family member (and have sufficient evidence)
  • Nobody can log into the account after it becomes memorialised except for select admins can choose what is posted on their memorial page (they do not have any other power e.g. add or remove friends)

Facebook Ambassador, Andrew Noyes, commended to introduction of this service, and expressed that:

“Memorialization allows friends and family to post remembrances and honour a deceased user’s memory, while protecting the account and respecting the privacy of the deceased.”

3. DEACTIVATION
An immediate family member can choose to petition Facebook by submitting a request or requesting removal at their local state court. This will remove the content on the page temporarily. This however, means that Facebook will still retain the content of the user, in their large database file. If in any case, the family member would want to re-coup the data on Facebook, they are able to do so without any missing content.

4. DELETION

Deletion entails the complete removal of the content of the user from both the Facebook user interface and the Facebook database. The whole procedure may take up to lengthy 90 days to complete. During this time, there may still be remnants of the user’s trace on other related links to Facebook or other app-links. The biggest fear is Facebook’s disapproval for the account’s deletion. There must always be a watchful eye during this period to monitor its success.

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5. DIGITAL LEGACY MANAGER
The rising trend of digital legacy management, agencies such as eClosure.co assist the closure of Facebook. By spending only 5 minutes filling an online form, eClosure promises a genuine service to shut down the any trace of social media from the deceased. This saves the hassle of seeking for legal confirmation. The documentation are curated by the agencies for ethical and highly respectable methods in successfully removing the user from virtual existence and protecting their digital legacy.