Facebook and death

I’ll start this post with a sad fact: I’ve learned of two friends’ deaths from Facebook.

The first was when Facebook was in its infancy and not that many people used it. I had just graduated from college when someone wrote a post on their wall saying the name of the person followed by “RIP.” It hit me in the stomach hard. Only months before I’d had two classes with the person.

Then, I was grateful. I wouldn’t have found out about an out-of-town memorial without Facebook. I likely wouldn’t have found out she died until months later without that message.

It was still surreal.

A second friend’s death meant her page turned into a memorial almost immediately after she died. Her friends wrote beautiful words to her. At the time, we had become only acquaintances, but I still had some books she considered special to her at my house.

I wrote how sad I was about her passing on the wall. I also mentioned I had two of her books. Her mother, who had been viewing the page thanks to a friend, ended up Google-searching me to track me down at work two months later to retrieve the books.

Again, without Facebook that wouldn’t have happened.

That said, I’m always a little unsettled when I see people announcing a death on Facebook.

Why? Call me old-fashioned, but I’d rather be notified in person. There’s something so very wrong about being notified about a death on Facebook.

But what about a friend notifying you from beyond the grave via Facebook?

That’s the premise behind a new app called If I die.

The Facebook app lets the user create a message that will post only after they die. A preview video acknowledges that while you may not have scheduled an appointment with death, death might be waiting right around the corner.

A little disconcerting.

Actually a lot. I’m not sure how I feel about this at all.

It’s an interesting concept. Consider that “last words” used to come in the form of a goodbye letter or a will. We’ve come so far from that. I think it would be a little cruel if I recorded a message before I passed away and my parents saw it within hours of my Facebook friends being notified.

I’m not saying it’s a bad idea. Just not likely one I would partake in.

That said, it brings up a much discusses topic in social media: What happens to an account after a person dies.

Here’s a good article on what several popular sites do, albeit from 2009.

That year Facebook, which suggests friends to get back in touch with and possible new friends on users pages, came under fire for doing so when it was culling dead users profiles. Facebook now allows for a “memorial page” to be established when someone dies.

Let’s face it, if something happens to me no one will have access to my Facebook account. I’ll be lucky if my husband remembers the password to my bank accounts (we maintain separate accounts even after four years of marriage). And would I really want someone posting items on my Facebook page as me?

I don’t think so. Would you?

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