There will soon be more dead Facebook users than living ones

Dead On FacebookThere will soon be more dead Facebook users than living ones

The numbers of the dead on Facebook are growing fast.

By 2012, just eight years after the platform was launched, 30 million users with Facebook accounts had died. That number has only gone up since.

Some estimates claim more than 8,000 users die each day.

At some point in time, there will be more dead Facebook users than living ones. Facebook is a growing and unstoppable digital graveyard.

Some estimates claim more than 8,000 Facebook users die each day.

Many Facebook profiles announce their owners have passed; they are “memorialised”. The profile is emblazoned with the word “remembering”, and they stop appearing in public spaces, like People You May Know or birthday reminders.

But not all Facebook users who have passed away are memorialised.

Social media has taught us about the power of the moment – connecting right now with people around the globe over awards show, television programmes, football games, social justice issues, and whatnot. But now it may be time to consider what comes after all that: our legacy.

It used to be that only certain prominent people were granted legacies, either because they left written records for their forebears, or because later inquisitive minds undertook that task. But digital technology changes that. Now, each of us spends hours each week – more than 12, according to a recent survey – writing our autobiographies.

We might think of our public social media record as some type of digital soul: those perusing my Facebook know my religious beliefs, my political reservations, my love for my partner, my literary tastes. Were I to die tomorrow, my digital soul would continue to exist.

In the past few years, several tech companies have extended the idea of a digital soul. Eterni.me, launched in 2014, promises to create a digital version of “you” that will live on after your death. Death is certain, admits the website — but what if you could live forever as a digital avatar, “and people in the future could actually interact with your memories, stories and ideas, almost as if they were talking to you?”

Today, many counsellors help mourners realise that their loved ones continue to be with them, in some sense, after they die. The relationship changes, but it is still there.

Still, part of the grieving process does necessitate moving on, and, well, forgetting in some sense. Not forgetting that our loved ones ever existed, but forgetting that they are in in this place with us.

That’s the catch of our brave new world: digital data does not allow us to forget.

In the past, remembering the dead had a physical element to it. You had to go somewhere to honour them: a graveyard, a church, a memorial. Or you had to take out a box of photographs or an album or an obituary clipping. You had to take some time from the present to think about your past, your history, your time with that person.

In Facebook, all places are present, all times are now. They exists in this medium just as I do. In a way, there is no moving on without them. There’s no moving on without any of the millions of dead Facebook users.

“The truth, is that we all live by leaving behind.” Jorge Luis Borges

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