Memories of Friends Departed Endure on Facebook

By Max Kelly on Monday, October 26, 2009 at 8:48am

I'm facing an anniversary soon: I will have worked at Facebook for four years. I was originally drawn to the company for the opportunity to help build a technology that enables people to model their social network and interact with it online. Equally as important, it was my first opportunity to work alongside my best friend of nearly two decades. Together, we threw ourselves into the task of building something we both believed in, working 18 hours a day, seven days a week with a small team of 40 people at the time.

About six weeks after we both started, my best friend was killed in a tragic bicycling accident. It was a big blow to me personally, but it also was difficult for everyone at Facebook. We were a small, tight-knit community, and any single tragedy had a great effect on all of us. I can recall a company-wide meeting a few days after his death, where I spoke about what my friend meant to me and what we had hoped to do together. As a company, we shared our grief, and for many people it was their first interaction with death. To this day, I still have strong emotions when I think about that gathering.

The question soon came up: What do we do about his Facebook profile? We had never really thought about this before in such a personal way. Obviously, we wanted to be able to model people's relationships on Facebook, but how do you deal with an interaction with someone who is no longer able to log on? When someone leaves us, they don't leave our memories or our social network. To reflect that reality, we created the idea of "memorialized" profiles as a place where people can save and share their memories of those who've passed.

We understand how difficult it can be for people to be reminded of those who are no longer with them, which is why it's important when someone passes away that their friends or family contact Facebook to request that a profile be memorialized. For instance, just last week, we introduced new types of Suggestions that appear on the right-hand side of the home page and remind people to take actions with friends who need help on Facebook. By memorializing the account of someone who has passed away, people will no longer see that person appear in their Suggestions.

When an account is memorialized, we also set privacy so that only confirmed friends can see the profile or locate it in search. We try to protect the deceased's privacy by removing sensitive information such as contact information and status updates. Memorializing an account also prevents anyone from logging into it in the future, while still enabling friends and family to leave posts on the profile Wall in remembrance.

If you have a friend or a family member whose profile should be memorialized, please contact us, so their memory can properly live on among their friends on Facebook.

As time passes, the sting of losing someone you care about also fades but it never goes away. I still visit my friend's memorialized profile to remember the good times we had and share them with our mutual friends.


Max is weary of eucalyptus trees.