A new generation of Facebook users will have a presence on the social media platform before they’re born, and after they die.
Last week, Facebook introduced a new tool allowing users to nominate a person, titled a “legacy contact,” to run their page after they pass away. This new tool ensures that a person’s page will be maintained as a space for loved ones to post memorials, pictures, and videos of the deceased. The legacy contact will be able to adjust the header and profile picture, pin posts to the top of the page, and download the pictures of the deceased.
The profile page will be updated to contain “Remembering” before the person’s name, signaling that they have passed away.
Previously, Facebook has “memorialized” pages of the deceased by verifying their deaths through obituaries or news articles, and then making the page into “memorial” status. The new legacy tool allows a loved one to have active control over the page and design it to their own specifications.
Users will be remembered after their death…but many are also being featured on Facebook before they are born.
Many women announce their pregnancies through status updates. A new trend is the posting of ultrasound pictures and “bump progress” photos, showing the growth of a pregnant belly over the months. Facebook has become a platform to ask for pregnancy advice, detailing experiences from bouncy babies to morning sickness woes.
On the one hand, this online presence can seem intrusive, almost invasive, into private life. In today’s world, we struggle daily with a sense of “if I don’t post it, did it really happen?” There is also a sense of competition among many social media users to have the most clever, original, and awe-inspiring content. A recent article from Britain’s The Telegraph declared that social media makes people feel “ugly, inadequate, and jealous,” and cited a study which found that two out of five young people surveyed felt they would be happier if they discontinued social media use.
But proponents of the new cyber-age presence say that the tools provided by social media encourage life planning and openness. Having control over who oversees your page after death ensures that you have control over your representation on the web. In addition, the announcements of such milestones as births and deaths on Facebook allow a platform for loved ones to voice their joy or sorrow, and work out feelings of closure–or send congratulations to new parents from afar.
Clearly, social media is only continuing to grow and change. The future of the medium is absolutely unpredictable. But one thing is certain: future generations will have much of their lives documented online. How do you want to be presented?