On Facebook, even dead people never die.
Given the youth of most of its user-demographic, death probably isn't something Facebook has really had to deal with. But as the Times' Michelle Slatalla discovers, it can haunt those left behind. Someone might be dead and mourned,
...but on Facebook, people live on — indefinitely — because the profiles of dead users are not routinely deleted. The company confers “memorial” status on deceased users’ accounts, having learned after the Virginia Tech shootings that many survivors want to grieve online by, say, posting goodbye messages on the walls of deceased Facebook users.
Slatalla's friend Steve, never much of a Facebook user, inserts himself into her life through birthday notifications and his smiling picture long after his death from cancer. Because, unless you take special steps, requesting that Facebook delete an account (probably not any bereaved person's highest priority) there's no "death" status that suddenly goes into effect. Says an FB rep, "'Many people who have somebody they’re still mourning find it very comforting and feel it keeps them connected to a loved one.'”
In a way, it makes a certain kind of sense. To a large degree, Facebook acts as a sort of second memory, keeping you vaguely aware of people from your dim past and abreast of far-away friends. It certainly aids in remembering quotidian things - birthdays, spouse names, current jobs - and, for good or ill, keeps you uniquely connected to the past. While, undeniably, there's something a little macabre about an abandoned Facebook page - and something very lonely about an unvisited one - a well-visited, tended profile with regular pokes and messages could become a sort of cut-rate 21st century mausoleum, and there are worse things.
Friends To The End And Beyond [NY Times]