Facebook after death
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Photo Credit: Akoda1031 / Public Domain

Memorialization over Facebook has helped people collectively grieve over loved ones, but has also sparked some difficult decisions: Here, we help you think through memorializing your loved one online.


More than 30 million people who had Facebook accounts have died, and it is no surprise that this figure will gradually increase year by year. Of the living population, around 70% have at least one social media account: 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.

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

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 – which could get nasty in the hands of the wrong person.

There are five 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 feels is uncomfortable to the eye, they must request for a password through a 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 that Facebook can exist as a healthy way to maintain a tie with the deceased: “Facebook appears to be 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.

2. Memorialization

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 the ‘suggestions’ list. Certain rules one must adhere to when facilitating this procedure include the following:

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

Facebook spokesperson Andrew Noyes commended the introduction of this service, saying that, “Memorialization allows friends and family to post remembrances and honor 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 the family member ever wants to re-coup the data on Facebook, they will be 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 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 of the account’s deletion. There must always be a watchful eye during this period to monitor its success.

5. Digital legacy manager

The rising trend of digital legacy management assist the closure of Facebook. By spending only five minutes filling an online form, firms like eClosure promise 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 is curated by the agencies, who employ ethical and highly respectable methods, to successfully remove the user from virtual existence and protect their digital legacy.

This post was originally published on eClosure‘s blog. 

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eClosure Team

About eClosure Team

We write for eClosure’s blog.

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