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The Dead to Outnumber the Living in Facebook by 2070

Most of us do not know this, but the death rate throughout the world is increasing. While it is not at the point where humans are dying faster than being born, it eventually will happen sooner than you think. Just take a look at the users of Facebook.

According to data from Oxford University, the number of dead Facebook users could outnumber the living by 2070. This would leave a vast amount of historical archives and importance that needs archivists to be brought in and save the information said the university.

Currently, the global social media site has around 2.27 billion members, but 1.4 billion will die before 2100, according to the new calculations.

 This means that within 50 or so years from now, the number of dead could pass the living. This would be a milestone that has important implications for what should or could happen with the huge archives of digital history.

By the turn of the 22nd century, the number of decreased profiles could reach as high as 4.9 billion and it would be a huge representation of the heritage in the 21st century.

Lead author Carl Ohman, a doctoral candidate from the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) warned there were problems with a single commercial company holding the largest archive of human behavior ever assembled.

“It may be of enormous benefit to future generations, and to historians especially,” said Mr. Ohman. “However, Facebook is a private company and is thus guided by what is commercially, not historically, valuable… Why would Facebook bother to store up to five billion dead profiles on their servers if there were no commercial inventive to do so? The problem is not that Facebook is a commercial company, it is rather the increasing concentration of historical data. Too few control too much.”

As of now, the process after a person dies, there two options for their accounts on Facebook. The first choice is memorializing their account for everyone to remember them by.  The word “remembering” is placed next to the profile name along a contact number for the person which is usually a family member running the page. The second option which is done by the user before their death is the delete option which just deletes their account after death.

It allows friends and family to view public posts made before their death and also post memories.

Now, the OII is calling for Facebook to invite historians, researchers, and archivists to devise and create a way to curate the archives so they are not lost forever and that they can be available to future generations.

The team said all social media networks with a similar global reach should start thinking about how the data of their users should be stored and used after death.

Co-author David Watson, also a doctoral student at the OII, added: “Facebook should invite historians, archivists, archaeologists and ethicists to participate in the process of curating the vast volume of accumulated data that we leave behind as we pass away.

“This is not just about finding solutions that will be sustainable for the next couple of years, but possibly for many decades ahead. Controlling this archive will, in a sense, be to control our history.

“It is therefore important that we ensure that access to these historical data is not limited to a single for-profit firm. It is also important to make sure that future generations can use our digital heritage to understand their history.”

However, the team said social network archives could provide a detailed view of history that has previously been impossible to see.

Mr. Ohman added: “Data from social media differs from traditional historical data, not only in terms of the content, but also in terms of the quantity.

“What we know about people in the past is basically based on men with power, who could preserve information about themselves to future generations.

“But we know way less about the thoughts and daily lives of the millions of women, workers and other marginalized groups in history. With social media as an historical asset, we have a chance not to repeat this mistake.”

These predictions are based off data provided by the United Nations, which provided the expected number of mortalities and total populations for every country in the world distributed by age. They were then mapped against Facebook data.

This research that was found by Oxford was published in the journal Big Data & Society.

 

Photo from Medium