I came across various reports recently that suggest there are well over 30 million dead people on Facebook. Many of these accounts are still active with regular memorial content, updated typically around anniversaries.
A growing percentage even post from beyond the grave. Companies like Deadsocial let you schedule posthumous messages years into the afterlife. As LivesOn, a twitter add-on, put it: "When your heart stops beating, you'll keep tweeting."
Indeed thanks to mobile applets, many of life’s daily chores, tasks and responsibilities can be activated, automated and simulated, giving voice to many long past their expiry date. (And here’s a little rant about that.) I’m guessing other social media channels are reporting something similar. Over time the numbers will only increase. So at what point will there be more dead people ‘active’ on social media than alive and kicking in the real world?
According to Hachem Sadikki (a Ph.D. stats dude at the University of Massachusetts) the number of dead users on Facebook will surpass the number of living by the year 2098. Indeed this research is a few years old, with some projections since actually shortening that timeframe.
Tune in, log on, happy out. The zombie apocalypse is real and it’s all kicking off on social media.
The 'Deceased Dollar'
Unsurprisingly, where there’s an audience, there’s money to be made.
Considering digital platforms like YouTube pay for content, it’s perfectly reasonable to assume that the dead will not only keep their memories alive and their opinions voiced, but they will also continue to earn a salary, and therefore presumably pay taxes. They could conceivably end up contributing more to society than many oxygen hoggers out there.
Indeed it turns out the zombie apocalypse are actually quite an affluent bunch. According to Leon Kaye solicitors the total amount passed on through digital inheritance in the UK amounts to £2.3bn with digital assets worth billions more stored on email and on sites like Flickr, Facebook and any number of other digital libraries.
Become virtually immortal
It’s becoming apparent that ownership of afterlife digital content is a burgeoning economy, as brands are born in the shadows of graveyards. Eterni.me “collects your thoughts, stories and memories, curates them and creates an intelligent avatar that looks like you that will live forever and allow other people in the future to access your memories.”
With AI technology becoming more and more sophisticated, it’s not difficult to see where this could lead; apps that analyse your current digital behaviour and mannerisms and generate ongoing comments and posts to your great, great, great, great, great, great grandchildren.
Brands with no conscious could conceivably muscle in on this territory with sponsored private messages and product placement - "My darling love, I impatiently count down the days until our heavenly reunion. Also, eat more Mars bars xx"
What marketing can learn from beyond the grave
At what point will we see TV ads targeting the deceased dollar? And while we’re on the subject, exactly what and exactly how do you advertise to dead people?
Well if some of the ads I’ve seen are anything to go by, the transition should be seamless. Surely only the predominantly decomposed could swallow some of the guff thrown around on the airwaves. For example, I’ve always suspected Barry Scott of Cillit Bang had long ago ceased to be…(anything other than a sensory insult).
If the zombie apocalypse has taught us anything, it’s that when it comes to marketing, we should surely think outside of the box - especially when it’s six feet under.
Don't R.I.P. me off!
Identity theft is another contentious issue here. Unscrupulous thieves have for years stolen and sold details of the deceased for all sorts of dodgy dealings, forging credit cards, passports, loans and wild spending sprees. Imagine how convincing these fraudsters could be, if they also steal access to social media impersonation profiles and accounts?
So there you have it, lock up your children folks, the zombie apocalypse is real and by the looks of things, the living are alright with that. But what are the implications? Where will this all end? At what point will enough be enough and we decide to reclaim social conventions just for the living? Or has that horse already bolted and it’s simply too late to do anything about it now?
For example, could a clinically brain dead, numb skulled, cold blooded, heartless, soulless, witless, guileless and gutless social media populist rise up the ranks to become the most powerful person ‘alive’ in the world, the President of the United States of America?
I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.