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19/12/2015

When It Comes To Facebook, Our Wishes Are Irrelevant

When I saw this post in the profile of a woman from Jerusalem after she committed suicide last month, my heart ached: 


"Following May's wishes, this page shall remain active in its current condition and not as a Facebook memorialization page".
You see, the thing is that Facebook doesn't care what her wishes were. The social network doesn't care if May gave her username and password intentionally and willingly, wishing that her dearest friends whom she trusts would keep updating it and that it would remain active (it's a profile, not a page). Facebook allows anyone to report anyone as deceased, and as soon as that report is processed, the profile is memorialised - even if the deceased explicitly wished otherwise. 
That is indeed what happened with May's profile, and very quickly: someone who did not respect her wishes reported her to Facebook as deceased, and her profile was memorialised. 
May knew she was about to die, she knew what she wished to happen to her profile after her death - but to Facebook, her wishes are irrelevant. 


This week, Jeff McManamy from Wisconsin, USA, Heather's husband, posted from within his wife's profile after her death from cancer, according to her wishes and following her instructions, the beautiful, charming, funny, sad and moving obituary she composed to and about herself. It starts with the words: 
"I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is, apparently, I'm dead. The good news is that if you're reading this, you are most definitely not (unless they have wifi in the afterlife)".
A highly recommended read
Heather knew she was dying and left Jeff this text along with the way of accessing her profile. 

My heart aches again when I see what Jeff posted two days later: 


"I have decided to keep this page going as a memorial for Heather. Not only will there be updates on the book, but I'll continue to post pictures and fun tidbits about Bri's life that Heather always enjoyed sharing"

Bri is Briana, Jeff and Heather's daughter. She'll turn five years old next April. 
The book is the book Heather wrote in the final six weeks of her life. It will be published in April: Cards for Brianna: A Lifetime of Lessons and Love from a Dying Mother to Her Daughter
And Jeff's decision? His wish to continue posting pictures and updates from within his wife's profile (this too is a profile and not a page), and thus to reach her followers (thousands) and friends (hundreds)? Well, Facebook is not going to care about that. Neither is Facebook going to care about the fact that Heather knew she was dying and gave her husband her username and password intentionally.  
I'm following her profile with dread, wondering each time I visit if this will be the time when it'll already be memorialised. 

Heather and Bri, September 2014 

In 2012 Louise Palmer from England found herself locked out of her only child's Facebook profile, Becky, who died from a brain tumor when she was 19 years old in December 2010. Louise
"Towards the end of her life she couldn't write or read more than a few sentences so I used to log in for her and read out to her what her friends were up to".
"Since her death in December I continued to login to remove spam comments from the page. 'I also gained a lot of comfort from reading all her old messages and conversations with friends before she got ill. When I was feeling desperately low, just logging into her page made me feel so much better. I could hear her voice through those conversations and remember how bubbly Becky was when she was alive. 'At the same time I would sometimes change her profile photo and remove any spam that had been posted on her wall to keep her page tidy'". 

But then someone reported Becky to Faceook as deceased, and her profile was memorialised, and Louise found herself locked out of her profile (here too it's a profile and not a page). 

Louise and Becky Palmer

Her attempts of explaining to Facebook that she used to log in back when her daughter was still alive and with her permission failed, and she responded by calling the social network "heartless and inconsiderate".  

I found her explanation to be very moving: 

"I was angry and devastated as although people can post on the Wall, I can’t read any of her old conversations nor remove any spam. It means her page looks like an uncared for grave with weeds growing on it".
Louise in an interview to BBC, April 2015: 


People who use Facebook's Legacy Contact, please remember that it's not a good enough solution. And people who think that leaving instructions behind along with their explicit wishes, their username and their password - please bear in mind that it won't suffice. Facebook doens't care what your wishes or decisions are. Your profile shall be memorialised as soon as it's reported. 

Jeff: I wish for you to have enough time to do whatever you wish to do - or whatever Heather wished for you to do - from within her profile before it gets memorialised, becuae as viral as this story gets, the chances are that this will happen and soon are only growing, I'm afraid. 

I plead with you again and again: if you come across a profile of a deceased person in Facebook: DON'T report it. 

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