Is Facebook a Virtual Gravestone?

Lately, it seems that Facebook is always in the news. We’ve all seen the headlines explaining that Facebook is now worth more than $50 billion, how its founder, Mark Zuckerberg is the youngest billionaire in the world, how Facebook affects privacy and law enforcement, and on and on… While all of these topics are certainly open for discussion and interesting in their own right, many of them miss the mark. Facebook isn’t just a service that can connect the world, it can also connect generations. In this article, I’d like to talk a little about how Facebook may grow in ways that very few of us are talking about today but may in the future.

With over 500 million members, and a market valuation of over 50 billion dollars, it seems that Facebook is here to stay. Over the years, corporations come and go. Most companies, even large ones don’t last much longer than 100 years, and no one knows if Facebook will be one of them. With that said however, it’s important to ask ourselves how it will affect the world if it does.

Facebook Babies

If you were one of Facebook’s original members, some one who joined while in college, using your .edu email address. You’re probably at the stage in life where all your friends are having children. Some of you probably already have children. If so, it’s likely that either you or your friends have already posted photos of your children on Facebook. In fact, a recent study says that 82% of kids under 2 years of age already have an online presence. This means that if Facebook were to make it to 100 years, this generation would be the first to have been Facebooked about their entire lives, from birth to death.

This is important because Facebook has not yet addressed some of these concerns. What happens when these children grow up? How can they take charge of their pre-existing online persona? What happens if they decide they don’t want to be on Facebook? While these decisions are still about 10 years away, these are all the privacy concerns that as parents and users, we should be concerned about.

As our children grow and start to become more and more interested in Facebook, how do we as parents interact with them? Do we really want them to see how we interact with our peers? To see how we interact with people that we have been friends with on Facebook for decades? Do we want our children to see updates from our youth? Will Facebook develop tools to not only protect our children from others, but to also protect us, as parents, from the prying eyes of our children?

The Virtual Gravestone

As our generation ages, it’s inevitable that many of us will pass away over the next few decades. During this time, the number of deceased members of Facebook will inevitably grow larger. How will Facebook handle death and what will Facebook look like when millions of its members are no longer with us?

Death on Facebook is a sad but interesting topic to talk about because in a way, it provides us with a way to live forever. Not it a physical sense, of course but when we die, our thoughts, photos, memories, and actions on Facebook will live on. For those of us who have been unfortunate enough to have a friend or family member on Facebook pass away, you may have noticed that those accounts come alive with activity on birthdays or special events, as friends stop by to pay their respects. In a way, Facebook becomes a virtual gravestone so to speak, where friends and family stop by to leave a message or just to reminisce.

In addition, Facebook can do more than just to help us mourn the passing of a loved one. It can even provide our children and grandchildren insight into who we were, what we did and thought, it will become a historical database of millions of people who were once members. This could become a resource that none of us had growing up and something our descendants might grow to treasure.

Most businesses that last the test of time start out doing one thing and ended up doing something else. AT&T started out providing telegraph service, now they are in the mobile phone business. While it’s too early to say what Facebook will look like in 100+ years, it’s safe to say that a company that started out connecting friends and family could end up not only connecting the world but also connecting generations.

Grant Friedman

Grant Friedman is a graphic design, blogger, and author. In addition to being the founder of this website, Grant is also the editor of Psdtuts, one of the world's most popular tutorial websites.

  • I totally agree!

    When a social network platform stops listening to its users, it dies. By listening to its users facebook will continue its rein as the king of social networking, but I personally see this coming to an end when people want quality engagement from real people. I believe the online community will cry out for real engagement as the real world moves more and more online. This will give birth to a place where there is in fact less choice, less possibility of dumping your mindless drivel and being actual online personas. People will always need people and social real engagement.

    I personally am excited to see what is around the corner.

    I also wrote a post on this:

  • I would agree with you and Yes, its a graveston, of course.

  • It creates something that has never been created, World wide database with easy marketing access for you, company and family. That helps inviting people to join facebook by just saying:”Did you miss this event?” It was on facebook. So add up all those people together is creating one of the biggest cemetery.

    Good article,

  • Sometimes Facebook does get too personal with your profile info.I like Facebook but they need to be more concerned about privacy.
    .-= sidder´s last blog ..How To Make Money On Facebook updated Sat Jan 22 2011 10-11 pm CST =-.

  • One time I heard someone yell at a bar, “Not having a Facebook is like not even having a birth certificate!” Apparently, with 82% of kids under 2 having a web presence, that woman was truer than she knew. Great statistic!

    It’s an interesting thought that Facebook could be a record log of one’s life. I’ve long abandoned my personal blog, after all. Sometimes I wonder, “Are my Facebook statuses all I am?”

    Of course, there are some people who would rather not have their ancestors know what they’re up to in Facebook land too! Imagine what our ancestors might have written if Facebook existed during the Roaring Twenties!

  • Bird

    Hopefully, instead of protecting our right to act like a fool on Facebook, we all realize that FB has become a public image, and we all start to behave like adults.

  • Great article, some really thought provoking words. Thanks

  • That’s a good article, thanks! I’ve always wondered what would happen to my facebook account/profile in 20-year time after I die (not very positive thoughts i know haha). I absolutely agree that the nature of facebook will definitely change with time, as it will contain huge amount of information submitted to the company directly by users. I suppose it’s all about privacy as well, you may die, but your privacy settings won’t :) I suppose facebook might do something like “clearing” and delete the accounts of poeple who will not have been using network for more than 5 years. However, if facebook will find the way to share the information from the profiles of people who passed away without the infringement of anyone’s privacy, that will be a huge benefit for the company and facebook will be able to develop in a completely different way and become even something bigger than it is now. I suppose we need to wait and see and hope we’ll live up to that day and our facebook profile will still be active :)

  • Due to a personal experience I have found it difficult to remove a profile of a relative who had passed away. They dont give you the ability to remove your account, they only give you the option to disable it and even then they are storing the information as I tried to log back in months later just to check and I could reactivate the account complete with all the data. Personally I don’t use Facebook for all the lack of privacy reasons.

  • That is a really interesting point of view on FB. Really hadn’t even thought of it that way. Building your legacy through FB I guess only time will tell? We all often wonder fade or for real? Thanks for this topic really a thought starter.

  • Rachel

    I think that FB is a great thing. Especially when you talk to people you haven’t seen in awhile incase they move or something. But i agree people need to grow up.

  • Agree, now every one is using facebook for every thing! I see my cousins using facebook all day long, they update every single moment. There was a time when people asked us “imagine a life without internet?” I would like to rephrase that question “imagine a life without facebook!?!?”

  • this is such an amazing article. what interesting and though-provoking points it brings up!

    Kristy Eléna – Full Time Fabulous
    Vogue Gone Rogue
    Twitter: @kristyelena

  • Thanks Kristy! So glad you liked the article!