Facebook for a Brave New Century

Five billion Facebook users will be dead by 2100? Is that really a headline worth noting? There are, at present, about 7.5 billion people in the world. With 81 years to the end of the century, it’s a good bet that the majority of those 7.5 billion will be dead. Since Facebook users are supposed to be 13 to sign up, that means that someone now on the service who survives to 2100 will have to be at least 94.

Of course, Facebook’s market penetration is pretty impressive with roughly one-third of the earth’s inhabitants in the user pot. If we just assume that 95% of these 2.38 billion Facebookers will die in the next 81 years, then we get 2.26 billion dead Facebook accounts. With lots of people signing up every day, some of whom will probably die over the next eight decades, it’s not that surprising that the intrepid researchers at Oxford University, came up with this figure.

I don’t blame social scientists for doing this sort of calculating, but I do think it is rather silly for media outlets to treat it as if it were news. And they did on CNBC, Digital Trends, CNET, and many others, although many of them obsessed about the “dead outnumbering the living” aspect.

It’s not news for a lot of reasons.

  • First, it is made to seem like a unique piece of information. But there will be even more deceased (one-time) users of cell phones in 2100. There will, by necessity, be more deceased Internet users. In the U.S., there will be hundreds of millions of dead WalMart shoppers. And there will almost certainly be more dead than active print newspapers. (Okay, that was a cheap shot.)
  • Second, projections are foolish. The best forecasts are the ones made after the fact. To assume that mortality rates will hold about steady might be correct. To assume that population growth can be predicted is probably less certain. To believe that Facebook will be adding (and watching the mortality of) users in 2050 or 2075 like they are in 2019 is just absurd. If you doubt that, run some “predictions” based on 1950 numbers of shoppers at Sears by 2020.
  • Third, the current 2.38 billion Facebook accounts is a little suspect. Of the 7.5 billion earthlings, about 1.3 billion live in China and are out of bounds for Facebook. That leaves 6.2 billion available. When roughly 23% of the world’s population is under 13, the potential users fall to about 4.6 billion. Therefore, Facebook already has over half of available people signed up? I’m thinking there are some phony accounts or a few million.
  • Fourth, the suggestion that Facebook will have more dead than live users by 2100 is a little ridiculous. People who post on Grandma’s account just after her death notwithstanding, there are no dead Facebook users. By the way, there are far more dead inhabitants of cemeteries than live ones.

Facebook is not an afterlife. Honestly, social media is not all that fulfilling of a hear-and-now life, but that’s a topic for another day.

And just as it is appointed for people to die once—and after this, judgment—so also Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. –Hebrews 9:27-28

By the way, current projections of Tunemyheart activity suggest that I will have posted 30,870 additional entries by December 31, 2100. Hold me to that!