Memorializing Facebook Profiles

The following was also one of my columns in MediaPost…

Ariel's Facebook Profile

Two years ago I wrote:

Relationships–whether physical or in the virtual world–are the fabric of life, and one inevitable fact in life and relationships is death. So it is natural that as the Internet and social media become more ingrained in people’s lives and identities, death and mourning will follow accordingly. We’re so early in the evolution of the Internet that death is not something we intuitively associate with the Web, nor is it something we completely understand. But one thing is clear: we all will eventually embrace its presence and impact.

And eventually is right. Last Tuesday, February 24, was my cousin Ariel’s birthday, and Facebook sent me a friend update to remind me. She was to turn sixteen. The problem was she passed away in May last year, following a horrible battle with bone cancer. I immediately thought to myself that her Facebook profile still means a lot and should be preserved. A colleague told me I could contact Facebook and request they memorialize her profile, and I did. Following is the confirmation letter.

Hi Max,

We are very sorry to hear about your loss. Per our policy for deceased users, we have memorialized Ariel’s account. This removes certain more sensitive information and sets privacy so that only confirmed friends can see the profile or find Ariel in search. The Wall remains so that friends and family can leave posts in remembrance.

Unfortunately, we cannot provide login information for the account. This is to protect Ariel’s privacy. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. Please let me know if you have any further questions.

Thanks for contacting Facebook,

Keith
User Operations
Facebook

As I said, we all will eventually embrace the Web’s presence and impact as we work through death and mourning.

UPDATE: You can request to memorialize a Facebook profile here.

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Published by Max Kalehoff

Father, sailor and marketing executive.

10 replies on “Memorializing Facebook Profiles”

  1. A friend just passed your blog entry to my attention. I own a site (Otrib.com) that helps people deal with end of life matters. That includes tribute pages to those who have passed away. And we also have a group page on Facebook, named Otrib, which is open for all to join.

    In cases that I have witnessed, FB users will establish entirely new “In memory of” pages or groups for someone that has died. It gives you, the next of kin/relative/friend, the administrative rights to control content on their memorial page. I know that wasn't the main purpose of your blog topic, but did want to suggest alternative ways of honoring/remembering your cousin.

  2. Thanks, Smoke. And it's a good reminder that your presence and activities online are leaving behind a digital breadcrumb that will become your legacy.

  3. Thanks. Makes sense to have such services. Nothing wrong with new memorial sites, very appropriate in many circumstances. But there's something even more authentic when the venue formerly managed by the deceased continues on as the gathering place.

  4. Max,

    I'm sorry for your loss. I know you would much prefer not to have this story to tell.

    But I'm impressed with Facebook's response. This sounds like a good policy, and their note to you strikes me as thoughtful and appropriate. Is this the same company that trips over their own feet on privacy issues? Because I think they got this one right.

    Nathan

  5. Good point. Yes, they handled well so far. The form letter was a little weird. And it was obviously a form because it implied I asked for my cousin's login information, which is not true. Importantly, the request was expedited reasonably quick: about a week (as opposed to weeks).

  6. Max,

    I'm sorry for your loss. I know you would much prefer not to have this story to tell.

    But I'm impressed with Facebook's response. This sounds like a good policy, and their note to you strikes me as thoughtful and appropriate. Is this the same company that trips over their own feet on privacy issues? Because I think they got this one right.

    Nathan

  7. Good point. Yes, they handled well so far. The form letter was a little weird. And it was obviously a form because it implied I asked for my cousin's login information, which is not true. Importantly, the request was expedited reasonably quick: about a week (as opposed to weeks).

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