It's hard to imagine an online feature that has saved more relationships than Facebook's birthday notifications. When you're scrambling to drop the kids off at school and weaving through rush-hour traffic, it's incredibly helpful to have Mark Zuckerberg at your side reminding you Uncle Jimmy is turning 72 today.
Unless Uncle Jimmy died two years ago and his far-removed co-workers are still flooding your newsfeed with confetti emojis and well-wishes for him.
Nothing ruins a day like a notification to wish your dead relatives a happy birthday. It's an uncomfortable reminder that while man is still mortal, the internet lives forever. And with Oxford University estimating Facebook could have nearly 5 billion dead users by 2100, it's possible Facebook could soon become just as much a digital graveyard as a social network.
Carl Öhman, an expert on the digital afterlife at Oxford University, has studied this problem a great deal.
"Many researchers believe this may constitute a new and positive way of grieving and coping with the loss of a loved one, [while] others warn that online technologies may in fact perpetuate grief, since the deceased appears to be 'always there,'" Öhman said in an email.
Thankfully, Facebook has measures in place to take care of these deceased profiles. On Tuesday the social media giant launched a menu on the settings page solely devoted to after-death settings, making these options easier to find than ever.
Here's everything you need to know if a Facebook user close to you passes away.
Gather the appropriate documentation
Facebook doesn't trust just anyone's word when a user has died, and with the Social Security Administration falsely listing around 6,000 people every year as deceased, it's not likely they'll start trusting government records anytime soon. Facebook's website says the fastest way to prove a person's death is by scanning or taking a picture of their death certificate. However, they also accept obituaries, memorial cards and other similar documentation.
Submit a Memorialization Request
Although the company announced in April it will start using artificial intelligence to limit the profile exposure of people who may have died, reporting deaths to Facebook is currently still the responsibility of the lost one's family members and friends.
This is the form Facebook uses to track the accounts of deceased users. To fill it out, you will have to link to the person's Facebook account, provide their date of death, upload documentation proving their death, and submit an email address where you can be contacted.
Upon receiving this request, Facebook will turn the person's profile into a tribute page where the word "Remembering" is added before their name and loved ones have a space to share memories of that person. These accounts are then blocked from appearing in certain locations on the site, such as in a user's birthday reminders.
A separate form is available for people wishing to have the deceased person's account removed from Facebook, not memorialized.
As morbid as this may sound, making sure your Facebook is ready for your death is an important step to help control the number of falsely active Facebook accounts.
Go into your Facebook settings
Log in to your Facebook account from a computer. In the upper-right corner of the main page, click the downward-pointing arrow to reveal the drop-down menu. Click the "Settings" option.
Open the Memorialization Settings sub-menu
Once you enter your settings, the first page will be titled General Account Settings. Look for the Memorialization Settings menu on this page and click the Edit button to the right.
Here, you can select a Legacy Contact that will administer your page after you die. This legacy contact will be able to manage tribute posts, respond to new friend requests, update your profile picture and cover photo, and request the removal of your account. However, if you would prefer to simply have your account deleted when you pass away, there is a link on this menu to request this as well.