It would appear that I’m old enough to have outlived some of my friends. Some of these friends are — were — on Facebook, and so now I have dead friends on my profile.
One friend passed away suddenly, and his page was being updated by his family. It was kind of nice, like he was still sort of around. As time has passed, however, reminders about his birthday seem slightly chilling. Today was a turning point. Words with Friends suggested that I start up a game with him. That was when I said ‘enough’! Facebook is for the living.
So I’m heartlessly and unceremoniously dumping my dead friends. We would love to keep them around forever, but there is such a thing as clinging, and I don’t think it’s healthy. It’s no wonder people started burying their dead — we miss them, but dead bodies are a health hazard, physically and emotionally. And while it would be nice to think of some aspect of ourselves continuing in perpetuity, we all have to get used to the idea of a world without us.
Facebook has responded to the problem of (to put it gently) user attrition by turning the profiles of the deceased into ‘memorials‘, which means the pages will still be open for family and friends to comment on, but they won’t show up in certain kinds of feeds — for example, it will stop asking you if you’d like to ‘re-connect’ with them. While this is a good idea, my erstwhile friends are still showing up for me because no one has contacted Facebook to ‘memorialise’ them.
Just imagine, fifty years from now, there may still be a lot of Facebook users, but there will also be an enormous number of dead accounts. Facebook may start to resemble a mausoleum, with neighbourhoods of catacombs full of tombs. Or like the Earth itself, where people who are young and alive work and play busily on its surface, unaware of all the bodies beneath their feet.