There's no doubt that Facebook has entered every part of our lives, but in a move that feels a little Black Mirror-esque it's all going one step further, and following us into death. Per a post by Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, A Facebook tributes section is coming your way — which you may think of as a great thing or a very odd one, depending on your stance on death and technology. Essentially, the new feature will give people more control over how their loved ones' Facebook pages are memorialized.
Facebook isn't new to this territory — the company already has a legacy option, launched in 2015, which allows you to give control of your account to someone after you die. (Fun fact: My stepmom changed my Dad's profile picture to his tombstone after he died, in a disturbing/hilarious move neither my brother or I saw coming.) But now, there are even more features rolling out for the... well, for the dearly departed and the people who are closest to them.
The first update is a new Tributes section — creating a place where people can share their stores or express their emotions about someone who has passed away.
"Over 30 million people view memorialized profiles every month to post stories, commemorate milestones and remember those who have passed away" Sandberg wrote in a post for the company. "The new tributes section expands on this, creating a separate tab on memorialized profiles where friends and family can share posts — all while preserving the original timeline of their loved one. This lets people see the types of posts that are most helpful to them as they grieve and remember their loved ones."
I feel like people are going to be pretty split on this. Some people find reaching out on social media to those who are no long with us very comforting and cathartic, while others find it a little odd or morbid. In order to make sure that the closest people to the deceased have more control, the company is introducing new options for legacy contacts. "Legacy contacts can now moderate the posts shared to the new tributes section by changing tagging settings, removing tags and editing who can post and see posts," Sandberg explains in the post. "This helps them manage content that might be hard for friends and family to see if they’re not ready."
This is really important, as seeing posts and other interactions with a family or friend who is no longer with you can be a bit jolting and unnerving — it's good to see that the people who matter most will be put more in control, so there's a filter on how this comes across. That being said, obviously not every family member or close friend will necessary agree on what's appropriate.
What if someone hasn't actually set the account to memorialized? Well, the company has announced it is trying to get better and quicker at using AI to keep profiles from popping up in distressing or traumatic ways — like suggesting you wish your dead dad happy birthday (been there) or invite them to a party. This way, even if no one has let Facebook know that the person has passed on or memorialized the account, they should be able to keep the platform from making suggestions that might be disrespectful or upsetting.
Dealing with technology and death is a weird, gray area — especially as social media accounts just continue to exist even after you gone. But for those who find it helpful to mourn on social media, this will be a welcome step forward.