How was you told that the last person that you were very close to died?
When a work colleague died I remember receiving a group email, shocking but at least there were others around in the office to look to for support. In the age of social networking there is every possibility that you could discover that someone close died via a profile update. With the rapid growth of mobile internet you could be in the middle of a meeting, stood in the queue at the supermarket, out for a meal with friends or picking up the kids from school.
Whilst you could be in all these scenarios to discover the death of a friend via a telephone call, the ‘accidental’ impact of discovering of someones death from a wall post or status update on a social profile seems to have an added loneliness and depth of shock.
So what happens next?
Some friends may wish to post messages of their shock and sadness on the profile of the deceased. Others may feel this inappropriate, feel that such public displays of grief are inappropriate.
Who should decide if and when a profile is removed?
Should relatives be given control?
At funerals I have always disliked the saying ‘they would have wanted…’ said so many a time by people who have no idea what the deceased wanted at all.
A solution to this would be a ‘living will’ on social networks – a ‘death wishlist’ or ‘social network after life’. At some point after signing up to a social network you should be given the option to select what you would like to happen to your account after you die. I would imagine that most will not bother, but for those of us who do not want others to speak in their name, this could be a way of securing that our wishes are met.
A ‘passed on’ option or ‘dead’, if you would prefer to be more blunt, could be useful – this would enable friends to stay friends but not have the deceased pop up every time an application wants you to choose friends to invite. Pre-programmable options after the ‘dead’ option is activated could include a series of status updates – spooky but could also provide some comfort (or hilarity).
In the absence of a ‘Facebook Death List’ I’d like to let my wishes be known:
- Post away on my profile after I’ve gone, for me death has traditionally been a social event. At least on-line there wont be any stale sandwiches
- My profile can stay, but if you’re a friend don’t feel embarrassed to delete me as a friend if seeing me in your friends list makes you feel uncomfortable
- Take photos at my funeral (no one ever does this which is a shame when everyone made such an effort to look good – and of course look gorgeous in black). A HD video stream would be even better.
- Make sure the coffin and later pictures of my gravestone are tagged just to make sure anyone who might stumble by my profile understands why I haven’t updated my status in a while.
- If someone can post messages each year to a newspaper on the anniversary of a death then I cant see why you can’t make it easier for people by keeping your profile open so they can post messages there.
Social networks have become such a major part of our lives, for me, I don’t see why they shouldn’t be a major part of death. I just hope that my last profile picture is a good one as I hopeit will be around for a lot longer than I was.
So what would you’re ‘Death Wish List’ be? Should Facebook let you decide what happens to your profile after you’re death or is this for you’re family to decide? Will last.fm discover new meaning? What happens to your last tweet when you are no longer able to twitter?