Facebook Deletion Rituals

Is your loved one’s Facebook profile still active, even though they’re gone? Does that bother you, but you’re not sure why? Do you not know what to do about it?

Consider participating in this research study of postmortem Facebook account deletion. We ask that you read this information and ask any questions you may have before agreeing to be in the study. The study is being conducted by Katie Gach, a PhD Candidate at the ATLAS Institute, University of Colorado Boulder. Katie may be reached at catherine.gach@colorado.edu.

The purpose of the study is to better understand people’s experiences with postmortem account deletion, and to examine a possible method of improving that experience.

Eligibility to Participate

You are eligible to participate if you meet the follow criteria:

  • at least 18 years old
  • able to conduct an interview in English
  • considering deleting the Facebook profile of a loved one who passed away within the last 2 years
  • in possession of a copy of the Facebook account holder’s death certificate

What Would We Do?

If you agree to be in the study, you will participate in 3 separate interactions conducted remotely on a platform of your choice (Zoom, FaceTime, Google Meet, etc.). Together, you and Katie will:

  • plan a meaningful ritual to complete the deletion (or memorialization) of your loved one’s Facebook account
  • enact the deletion ritual, with others you may wish to invite
  • have a reflection interview to process the ritual experience

What Data Is Being Collected?

The sessions will be recorded and then transcribed so that Katie can better remember what you have said. Katie will also be taking notes of your perspective, actions, and experiences throughout each part. Every effort will be made to keep your personal information confidential: all written records will be scrubbed of identifiable information like names, locations, or specific dates/events. All data will be kept in password-protected, encrypted files in locked offices. We will not require you to provide us with your full or real name or other personally identifying information.

Voluntary Participation and Withdrawal

Taking part in this study is voluntary. You may choose not to take part or may leave the study at any time. Your decision regarding this study will not affect your current or future relations with the University of Colorado Boulder.

If you would prefer for the ritual to take place in person, we can discuss how to do so safely according to CDC precautions.

Benefits of Participation

You will not receive monetary compensation. You may benefit from the technical support Katie can provide as a former employee of Facebook’s Memorialization team. You may benefit from reflecting on the life of your loved one and tying up a loose end of their digital assets.

Questions or Problems

If you have questions or are interested in participating please contact Katie Gach at catherine.gach@colorado.edu. This study was reviewed and approved by the CU IRB #20-0316.