Death cannot part Facebook friends

13 May 2016
New data from Dying Matters has revealed that 40% of British adults wouldn’t unfriend someone they know on Facebook even after that person has died. 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 just 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. Just 21% of people thought that Facebook is the best method of sharing news of a terminal diagnosis beyond close friends and family, while 58% disagreed.

In both cases, younger people are more likely to be comfortable than older people in sharing bad news on Facebook. A quarter 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 people aged 65 and over.

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."

The research did highlight that there are limits to what we are willing to share, especially as we get older. For example, only 11% of those over the age of 65 would inform their Facebook friends of a health condition if the prognosis was 'terminal'.

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*ComRes interviewed 2,085 British adults online between the 15th and 17th of April 2016. Data was weighted to be representative of British adults aged 18+.

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