When it comes to death and grief, there is a lot Facebook has gotten wrong over the years. They haven't always made it easy to make pages memorial pages after a death. "Highlights' of the last year that involved posts about the death of a loved one are moments that have prompted apologies from Facebook about their insensitivity.
The problem, of course, is that Facebook is not a person, but an algorithm. It is an algorithm that can't tell the reason a post from last year had so many likes and comments was because you were sharing news of a loss. It is an algorithm that doesn't realize when someone has died, despite all the sympathy comments of remembrance on their profile. We aren't here to tell you that Facebook has finally fixed all the problems and made things right. But we are here to let you know that last week they made some major changes to how you can honor and memorialize people on Facebook that we thought you might want to know about. They even make a point to say that they know they still have work to do, but it's a start. So they big question: what do you need to know?
Facebook created a 'Tribute Section'
When someone dies, Facebook has long had a feature where their profile could be memorialized. 30 million people a month view these memorialized profiles! Facebook has now added a new tab to these profiles that they are calling the 'tribute' tab. It is "a separate tab on memorialized profiles where friends and family can share posts — all while preserving the original timeline of their loved one. This lets people see the types of posts that are most helpful to them as they grieve and remember their loved ones". What they seem to be going for is a way to meet two different grief-needs people have - keeping someone's page the way it was when they were living, while also created a space for friends and family to post and comment (and to read the comments and posts others have shared).
Changes to the Legacy Contact
Back in 2015, Facebook gave people the ability to choose a 'legacy contact'. That is the person you trust enough to take responsibility for your Facebook profile after your death. If you haven't set your own legacy contact yet, you can learn how to set your legacy contact here. If you are the legacy contact for the profile of someone who passes away, there is a change you were feeling frustrated by the limitations to your power. Facebook heard your complaints loud and clear and they have given you more ability to change tags, edit who can see posts, and serve as a moderator for the new 'tribute section'. It remains true that minor's still can't select a legacy contact, but there is now a new policy in place now that allows parents to request to become the legacy contact for their deceased child's page. (we aren't going to waste time questioning why that wasn't already a policy, and rather just give two cheers that it is now).
When a Page Isn't Memorialized
Facebook gets it that people aren't always ready to memorialize a loved one's profile right away, for all sorts for reasons from logistical to emotional. When a page isn't memorialized, we quickly remember that Facebook doesn't actually know everything. The really helpful features that exist before a page is memorialized, like birthday reminders, can become painful triggers. Facebook knows this is an issue and they are working on it, they promise. They assure all of use that they are going to continue to better "use AI to help keep it from showing up in places that might cause distress, like recommending that person be invited to events or sending a birthday reminder to their friends. We’re working to get better and faster at this". All we can say is fingers crossed! Social media and grief is an endlessly complex topic, with lots of good and plenty of complicated. We do our best to keep you in the know about changes like these, so subscribe to get all our updates right to your email.
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After writing online articles for What’s Your Grief
for over a decade, we finally wrote a tangible,
What’s Your Grief? Lists to Help you Through Any Loss is for people experiencing any type of loss. This book discusses some of the most common grief experiences and breaks down psychological concepts to help you understand your thoughts and emotions. It also shares useful coping tools, and helps the reader reflect on their unique relationship with grief and loss.
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