Social Media Virtual Cemeteries

Social Media Virtual Cemeteries

It is in the 21st century, that the world has experienced massive developments in the political, economic and even the social aspect of life. This has been brought about by significant developments in technology ever since civilization. The most important invention of the 21st century, which has played a significant growth is the internet. The internet has connected every corner of this world. This means that people can communicate at anytime regardless of their location, with just a click of a button. This has brought cheap, easy as well as efficient means of storing, analyzing and sending information (Thorpe, 2014).  In relation to this concept, this research seeks to establish what really happens to the Social media sites we create once we die. Social media has attracted people from all the corners of the globe. In fact, almost every young person between the ages of 18 and 45 has signed up in a social site.

There are many social sites nowadays, and many more continue to crop up. They include; Instagram, Facebook, twitter and Skype among many more. These social sites have been designed in a way that they can be accessible through mobile phone. This has made it even possible and easier for people to communicate in these social sites anytime, and at any place from their communication gadgets. As a result, advantages like increased awareness, access to information as well as easy accessibility of resources have come along. In terms of easy accessibility of resources, this is because many organizations have resulted in the use of social media as a broadcasting forum for what they offer, as well as their prizes. This is evident by the number of adverts that one comes across in social sites like Facebook, twitter among others. It is not only corporations that have resulted into social media as a means of communication. Even our governments as well as many others have resulted in the use of social media in the effort of relaying information to as many youths as possible. This is because it is easy to find the young generation using the internet and other than digital media forums for information, other than using other analogue means for the same (Maddrell & Sidaway, 2010). For example, the young generation would rather Google for information, other than read newspapers or any other form of government printed media.

In short, our society has come to embrace digital media on their day to day activities. This is because of its efficiency and also being a cheap means of storing, analyzing, receiving and sending data (Thorpe, 2014). As a result, the world has turned to consumption of digital media for almost all the services that used to use analog means. However, are these social sites turning into virtual cemeteries once we die? Does keeping a dead person’s Facebook, twitter or Google+ account operational even after their death make sense? People do not ask themselves these queries when they are signing up for services on social media.

In this connection, I lost a close friend to cancer four years ago, but her Facebook profile is still active to date. This story is not that unusual for many people continue seeing accounts of dead or presumed dead people online long after their passing. A social Site like Facebook which continues to grow has many users. For instance, in 2012 this company said that it had over 30 million accounts worldwide which had been connected to people who may have passed away (Thorpe, 2014). Almost two years down the line, this number must be higher. This is because there is no one who knows when they would die since death mostly occurs unexpectedly. Death does not announce when it is coming hence it occurs unexpectedly. Besides, even when an individual is on a death bed and still verbal, things like social media are the last things on their minds for they would rather spend that time with their families (McIlwain, 2005). As a result, these online accounts continue living like an insect that has been frozen in amber. These accounts continue showing pictures, messages from and to the deceased as well as notes among many other shared materials.

In these events, closing or deactivating a deceased person’s social media accounts can be very tricky, more so depending on the terms and the conditions of an online service (Moncur, 2012). Taking Facebook as an example, this company allows access to the account to the original user only. However, a close family member can try to contact Facebook for the release of the access details if the information were not known. This is usually a significantly tiresome process as it mostly leads to a long battle between the company and the family member in question for the company claims to provide clear terms and conditions for their services before any individual could sign up with them. For instance, there is no law in any country preventing Facebook from blocking or deactivating any dormant accounts (Gibbard, 2013).

However, sometimes when an individual has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, it means he/she has time to prepare and friends and family members have access to the information in the account. Facebook maintains access to this information, but it can only be accessible to friends and families who had been confirmed as friends before the passing of the deceased. The company allows them to maintain these accounts as “virtual memories”.  Additionally, a family member can even send an obituary or a request to this company to have the page “memorialized” where it becomes as some sort of a permanent virtual cemetery (Gibbard, 2013). This means that instead of placing flowers, and even for the sake of the persons who cannot access the grave of the deceased, they can post pictures and kind comments about the deceased.

The issue of posting pictures and kind messages of the deceased on social media continues to draw attention as some people feel it is not ethical to turn social media sites into virtual cemeteries (Madrell & Sidaway, 2010). This is more so because death is a significantly sensitive issues which is physical and also social. As a result, people perceive this issue differently depending on the religion, culture and other personal issues. As a result, these norms have not yet been established across social medial forums such as Facebook or twitter. As a result, the contention is understandable as some people perceive maintain and continuing to use a deceased person’s social media account as creepy while to others it could be comforting (Moncur, 2012).

As a result, philosophers and some psychological experts have been advising people to plan ahead and think of what to happen to their social media accounts once they pass. They have been suggesting that we should write down all the social media sites we are using, their usernames, passwords, security questions and their answers. We should also mention them in our wills and specify who should take care of them after our passing. They also suggest that we should specify on what to do with the accounts after our passing: that is whether they should be deactivate in an event of our deaths, or they should be maintained as social media virtual cemeteries.


Gibbard, A. (2013). Pink ribbons for April: In Memory of April Jones.

Maddrell, A., & Sidaway, J. D. (2010). Deathscapes: Spaces for death, dying, mourning and remembrance. Farnham, Surrey, England: Ashgate.

McIlwain, C. (2005). When death goes pop: Death, media & the remaking of community. New York: P. Lang.

Moncur, W. (2011-12). Does the internet change how we die and mourn? A review article. Retrieved from:

Thorpe, H., & Palgrave Connect (Online service). (2014). Transnational mobilities in action sport cultures.