13th May 2016

Survey: Do we “unfriend” our Facebook friends after they die?

40% of British adults wouldn’t unfriend someone they know on Facebook even after that person has died, according to new research for Dying Matters. The survey of over 2,000 adults by ComRes found that only 8% of people agreed that when someone they know on Facebook dies, they unfriend their account soon after, compared with 40% who disagreed.

The survey also found that only 26% of people agreed that Facebook is a good way of sharing news of a death beyond the immediate circle of family and friends, with 50% disagreeing. Only 21% of people agreed that Facebook is the best method of sharing news of a terminal diagnosis beyond close friends and family, with 58% disagreeing.

In both cases, younger people are more likely to be comfortable sharing such news on Facebook than older. 25% of 18-24-year-olds agreed that they would share that they knew they were dying on Facebook, rising to 31% for 25-34-year-olds but falling to 11% for the over 65s.

Men are slightly more likely to unfriend someone on Facebook soon after that person’s death, with 10% agreeing against only 7% of women.

James Norris of the Digital Legacy Association said “this shows how important Facebook is as a tool to remember and mourn the deceased. That so few people would unfriend someone on Facebook after their death gives us a small indication as to the importance Facebook is providing into posterity.
This research does however also highlight that there are limits to what we are willing to share. For example, only 11% of those over the age of 65 would inform their Facebook friends of their condition if the prognosis was terminal”.
James predicts our willingness to share personal information such as diagnosed conditions and areas relating to end of life will increase in the coming years.

The annual Digital Legacy Conference takes place this Saturday at St Joseph’s Hospice this Saturday (May 14th). Places are free but must be reserved in advance. More information and booking details here.