Unit 10 – Brief 1: Rest in Pixels – Dead People on Facebook in 2015

At this point, the math calculates that less than 400,000 of American Facebook users will die in 2010 [4]. Facebook hasn’t commented on how many of these accounts are “memorialized” (a special state that removes status updates and disable new friendships — for more details see our forum). Anecdotal evidence suggests, however, that most accounts are not “memorialized” — they patiently await the next status update that will never come like faithful Hachikō [5].

Extrapolating globally (1 in 4 Facebook users is American and non-US users tend to be younger and hence have a lower death rate) suggests that 1 to 1.5 million Facebook accounts will outlive their users this year. That’s more than 1 million deaths on Facebook in 2010. 1 million — that’s 1,000 times more people than Mark Zuckerberg has friends [6].

…and 50 million ghosts in 2015

Of course, 2010 isn’t the first year that someone has died on Facebook, and as much as I may hope, it won’t be the last. Facebook’s own blog chronicles the team’s shock and reaction when an early employee died in a bike accident in 2006 [7]. However the recent aging of Facebook means that accounts whose owners have passed away are a relatively new phenomena. In fact, seven times as many people will die on Facebook this year than have ever died on Facebook. Projecting this forward we foresee over 50 million accounts whose owners have passed away in 2015 [8] (see chart 3).

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