Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts stick around for a while unless deactivated by the person who runs it, which means that the profiles of the deceased can still pop up every now and then.
The new established order of discovering these events is typically as follows – you read a few tweets mentioning the rumour of the death of someone you know, someone you went to high school with, probably exchanged glances with twice, and that was that. You frantically search through your feed for similar tweets about this death, suddenly finding yourself wondering and feeling a pit of sorrow slowly swelling, even though you weren’t particularly close to them. You don’t find much else, so you check Instagram for any commemorative collages made by people you follow, confirming these suspicions, but it’s a bit too early for that.
Your Facebook news feed is always a reliable source of information (and game invites and The Onion articles), so you instinctively head to the supposedly dead person’s page. There’s a couple of posts wishing the person to “rest in peace” but these only show that the rumors have gotten around. You do a quick search of the person’s name to see if there’s a news article of the incident. An hour or two later, you see the person’s Facebook wall littered with photos of from the past and brief sentences with a respectful farewell, or lengthier posts describing cherished memories.
Unless you were glued to your couch on the Saturday night that Paul Walker was confirmed dead, odds are that you heard of the news via Twitter or through other social media devices. This is how news of death circulates nowadays. But sometimes, the accounts and profiles of the deceased are never deactivated. Their Facebook profile still lingers around while you’re scrolling through the site, coming up every now and then on your news feed as your friends continue posting about how much they miss them, or their idle Twitter profiles just rest there.
Parents or relatives usually overrun the deceased person’s account to give an update to followers/friends, and will sometimes even set up groups that you can “like”, which is becoming pretty commonplace. There are also those people that send in tribute videos with downtempo, somber songs while an amateur slideshow plays along. However, these are just needless reminders that these people are gone. Lest we forget their deaths, but I don’t think that bi-monthly tribute videos set to Celine Dion songs really lets the sad memories rest.
The person’s final, haunting personal update is buried somewhere below a plethora of posts claiming how much they are missed. Some of these may sound artifical, some of these are heart-warming, tear-jerking moments. Yet perhaps social media sites and apps should enforce a new policy that requires a yearly check-in with an account, or something of the sort to prevent these unfortunate reminders; I’d rather not stumble upon the occasional profile of someone who has passed away, or offer them a game invite. The thought that there are over a million dead profiles on Facebook right now is a creepy one, and the numbers keep on piling up.