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illustration Marianne Wilson

Dead people are going to outnumber live users on Facebook by 2050

Connecting you to the people in your life and those beyond the grave

Facebook looks set to become a virtual graveyard, as the number of dead people on the site may outnumber the living within 50 years, according to a study by Oxford researchers.

Based on the platform’s user levels in 2018, if the site continues to grow at its current rate, it would reach a total of 4.9 billion dead users by 2100. Even if growth on the site stopped altogether from last year, it would still have around 1.4 billion deceased members by 2100. In this case, the profiles of dead people would overtake the living in 2070.

Given Facebook’s history of data abuse, some more troublesome questions have been raised over what happens to people’s profiles after they die. These concerns aren’t just felt by friends and family of the deceased, but historians and archivists looking to preserve and understand the past. Just this month, third-party apps exposed 540 million records of Facebook user’s data.

At the moment, Facebook allows users to choose a ‘legacy contact’, who is given access to elements of the account when the user dies, and who then has the option to ‘memorialise’ the account. Problems inevitably arise if the user dies before designating a legacy contact.

In response to the growing presence of dead members, Facebook now allows users to invite deceased friends to events and reminds them to wish them a happy birthday – not creepy at all.

Dazed previously explored how social media has changed how we grieve, with digital shrines providing both a meaningful connection and painful tether to loss.