Facebook of the Dead

business_ethics_highlights_2Facebook users die every day, but unless they are formally memorialized they continue to live digitally even as they have passed on in body and soul. What does the continued existence of a person as a digital presence even after death mean for how we experience death? What does it mean for the moral significance of death? This BBC Future piece is an extended meditation on the way in which Facebook (in particular) and technology (in general) are changing death. Beyond the morbid subject matter, there is a hopeful discussion about how preserved Facebook profiles can allow us to know the dead in ways that a formal biography would overlook. As technology advances, are Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s five steps of the grieving process – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance – left unchanged? >>>

LINK: At some point, there will be more dead Facebook users than living ones – and for those left behind, it is transforming how we experience the death of those around us (by Brandon Ambrosino for BBC Future)

Observing that phenomenon is a strange thing. There she is, the person you love – you’re talking to her, squeezing her hand, thanking her for being there for you, watching the green zigzag move slower and slower – and then she’s not there anymore.

Another machine, meanwhile, was keeping her alive: some distant computer server that holds her thoughts, memories and relationships.

While it’s obvious that people don’t outlive their bodies on digital technology, they do endure in one sense. People’s experience of you as a seemingly living person can and does continue online.

How is our continuing presence in digital space changing the way we die? And what does it mean for those who would mourn us after we are gone?

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.

What do you think?

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