A few months ago a close friend of mine passed away. I decided it was my duty to contact several of our mutual friends and inform them of this tragedy. So I logged onto Facebook to look up a someone I knew that would have more details about the death, funeral arrangements and other things that people would want to know.

I was surprised to see my friends picture on the news feed when I logged on with some action on his wall. He had passed away less than 24 hours ago and there was already over 30 comments on his wall. All the comments were very kind, most of which were goodbyes, remember whens and a discussion going on about his passing and what friends and family can do to help. In affect his Facebook wall had become a memorial forum about him.

This experience caused me to contemplate whether or not I thought deceased people’s Facebook or other social media accounts becoming memorials is a good or bad thing. I was also curious where a company like google, places this on there list of important issues to deal with. In my friends case it was by far a positive thing, and I believe his family was probably fine with it.

On the other side I can see how this could be very difficult. There are people who pass away who likely have some not so compassionate acquaintances/ enemies that could try and use Facebook to defame the deceased. Another thing that is a little eerie is when someone who has died is suggested to you as a friend, or worse if someone who knows there password logs on as them and you see activity on their account.

I have been scouring the web to find out what Facebook’s official stance is and I have found a lot of contradicting info. Some say that Facebook does not really want to mess with this at all because it is so dicey. It appears at least if you wish for the account to be deleted you can present Facebook with a copy of a certificate of death. This will probably become a more prevalent issue since the fastest rising demographic of Facebook users are 65 and older.

Something cool that I did find online is a new site called 1000Memories which creates a location for friends and family to memorialize someone by sharing pictures and stories about them. Each page has 5 parts: Friends & Family, Photos, Stories, Projects and Guestbook. The projects section is pretty cool because you can raise money for a charity and there is even a paypal type system.

What do you think? How should social media services handle this interestingly delicate issue?

Phil Sanders