Dead people are liking things on Facebook

The Facebook Afterlife, Weird things are happening on Facebook of late. There are mysterious likes appearing that people don’t remember making. Worse still, and somewhat inexplicably, people who have died are still “liking” things on the social network, which as you can imagine could be upsetting for friends and family. If it is not dead liking products from the afterlife then it is individuals making surprising life choices through their social media activity such as anarchists liking corporations or Democrats suddenly coming out to their friends as Mitt Romney supporters.

According to Readwrite, last month Brendan O’Malley was surprised to see that his old friend Alex Gomez had “liked” Discover on Facebook. This came as a surprise to O’Malley for several reasons. Not only because his friend hated corporations, but because he had died six months earlier.

The Facebook “like” is dated Nov. 1, which is strange since Alex “passed [away] around March 26 or March 27,” O’Malley told me. Worse, O’Malley says the like was “quite offensive” since his friend “hated corporate bullshit.

“Brendan sent me this info in response to a request I had made on Facebook to my friends. Not long ago I asked people to send me screenshots of weird or suspicious behavior. I did this after noticing some bizarre things happening on Facebook —such as friends of mine showing up as “liking” things that I know they don’t like, such as liberals “liking” Mitt Romney and a guy with no car who “liked” Subaru. When I contacted these people they swore they had never liked these brands, and they had no idea that this stuff was going out under their names,” reports Readwrite.

Facebook’s explanation two fold. The first is a bit creepy. Apparently we can linger for substantial periods of time online after we die as “likes” from dead people can continue to pop up from months ago in the news feeds of friends as Facebook recycles “likes” long after they first occur.

That’s revealing. Who knew that so much activity we see on Facebook isn’t necessarily happening right now, isn’t fresh and immediate, but could be months old. It would be interesting to see some figures on this and know how much activity on Facebook is historic compared to current.

If you want to ensure that the account of someone who has died doesn’t continue to be “recycled through social media, as if were on some continuous wash cycle, you need to make sure the account in question is“memorialized”. If you don’t tell Facebook that the account is inactive it works on the assumption that it is active.

Once an account is memorialised Facebook says the following happens:”When a person passes away, we memorialize their account to protect their privacy. When a timeline is memorialized, we continue to honor the account’s privacy settings and implement security features to protect the account.”

In the case of these phantom likes appearing, where people start liking brands and products that appear out of character, Facebook says that it’s possible people were liking things by accident.

This could it says happen for instance by hitting a button on Facebook when you mean to hit something else or it could also be the result of using Facebook’s mobile app and where again the wrong button has been pressed.

That said reports of people liking products they say they never liked seems to be happening a lot, which suggests people are either suddenly starting to get very careless when it comes to pressing the wrong button or there is something else at play.