Whether there is life after death, reincarnation or a heaven above, the issue still remains of what to do with a deceased friend or family members’ Facebook profile.
In the modern age of social networking, this decision is a new concern. Facebook put a policy in place for deceased users.
Facebook policy communications director and UCD alumnus Barry Schnitt said for several years, there has been a policy that addresses this topic. In October, the site reminded users about memorializing a loved one’s page on the company blog, along with additional policy changes.
“We hear many stories of friends and family sharing remembrances and grief on Facebook,” Schnitt said in an e-mail interview. “It’s a great way for people who could not attend a funeral to participate, and for remembering to carry on long after a funeral.”
The blog entry directs users to a “deceased” page where they can give basic information, along with the relationship to the deceased and proof of death. This information keeps the profile sensitive to the deceased user’s death. There is the option to delete the entire profile or only certain parts – like contact and work information.
The recent change keeps these profiles off the “Suggestions” column, which is a new feature that suggests a friend request. Furthermore, only confirmed friends can look at a departed’s profile. A deceased member’s profile will not appear in search results.
Friends and families can request to have profiles removed altogether, Schnitt said.
Bereavement Services Manager at Yolo Hospice Robyn Burris said the memorialization policies and issues Facebook has begun to deal with are becoming more prevalent in the bereavement process.
“When [people] Google their loved one’s name, it comes up and it’s bizarre and weird,” Burris said. “I think it’s disturbing for people as they are processing their grief.”
Burris said the online presence of a deceased person’s life could trigger a reminder that their friend or relative is dead.
“There’s a discordance between, ‘I know they have died’ and when [you] look up their name they are still ‘active,'” Burris said. “It’s like they are still there.”
UC Davis senior human development major Kindra Henry has experienced this disconnect first-hand when her long-time friend and UCD student Randy Davis passed away last winter break. Davis was a senior exercise biology major.
“The new feature on the side [that says,] ‘Reconnect with [Randy Davis],’ came up quite a few times and that was a little bit of a dig,” Henry said. “That definitely struck a chord.”
Though there is a disconnect between reality and the Internet, Henry said overall, Facebook proved to be a great memorializing tool.
“I think it’s really nice to be able to look at [his] page and write down, ‘Hey, I miss you,'” she said. “It’s a nice place to communicate since not everyone prays.”
Henry said she was afraid at first that Facebook would remove Davis’ page if it were reported that he was deceased. Instead, she has seen the memorializing tool as a good way for people to remember who Davis was and all he had done in his life.
“I think it’s kind of nice that [a] person can live on in a way,” Henry said.
SASHA LEKACH can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.