Death is part of our life, but we tend not to think about it. When a user dies in real life, the digital user still exists. Sometimes relatives continue to update the deceased users’ social media pages and sometimes the relatives decide they want the social media account removed. As an example Facebook require a death certificate to remove late users’ the Facebook account.

A memorial account on social media needs to be having a different visualization to distinguish from living users. But how do one visualize deceased user on social media?

Realted question: What would be a good non-religious icon to represent that a person has died?

  • Related? :ux.stackexchange.com/questions/10911/…
    – JonW
    May 12, 2012 at 8:58
  • @JonW Definately related! However I'm not looking for an icon. I'm looking for a different style or some prominent text to visualize the account differently from living users. This question is in the context of social media and not organizations. May 12, 2012 at 9:13
  • I would propose stopping in-app games from inviting me to start a game with the deceased, or worse, sending them "another life". Feb 7, 2014 at 18:51

3 Answers 3


It depends on the site and the type of interactions that are appropriate.

Like ChrisF, my first instinct was to suggest using a black-and-white colour scheme for a deceased user. This is appropriately sombre, but it also suggests a 'disabled' account - we tend to use greys on interfaces to suggest that something can't be interacted with. Whilst this is appropriate for a member who can no longer be interacted with, it could confuse users who could still legitimately interact with the account (eg giving their condolences or speaking in memorial). A grey entry in a member list, for example, might just look like a disabled or banned account.

The other thing you could do is rely on other users' content. Photos and messages for someone who has passed away often give away their context fairly readily. I once encountered a Facebook memorial profile, and quickly twigged on what had happened just by looking at the tenor of the posts and images.

  • +1 Leaving the account as is and rely on user content didn't cross my mind. But you have a point with your answer. We do live in a collaborative digital world. Web 2.0 May 13, 2012 at 6:11
  • 1
    A grey entry in a member list, for example, might just look like a disabled or banned account. Why not put a thick black rectangular border around their name, as in necrologues in papers or movie credentials? May 13, 2012 at 9:22

Difficult this one. You're almost certain to offend someone at some point.

You could look at some sort of "toning down" of the colour scheme, either just fading/bleaching the colour scheme or black and white. They have the same layout and controls etc, but just shades of grey.

De-emphasising the interaction controls might be another option, but that could be too subtle for people to notice. Including the date of death (as just the year) would be another visual cue.

What you probably don't want to do is stick a big "deceased" sign across the top of their profile.

  • +1 A good answer Chris, I hade something like black/white in my mind when I thought of the question while taking my morning run. I promise I will never use the flashing banner! May 12, 2012 at 13:56

As others have mentioned this definitely depends on the context you're applying this to, but in the electronic medical record software I work on we put a lowercase x before the patient's name to indicate that they have 'expired'. This is one of the more subtle and PC applications I've seen to indicate this. If you were to look up this patient (or facebook user, twitter profile, etc...) you would see "xJohn Doe'. It's not perfect but it has been very intuitive for our users to pick up so far.

  • +1 this reminds me of what we did when users unregistered from a queue. We added an R before the social security number, so that the user could register again if they wanted to. A very different scope though, but we knew what R<social security number> ment. May 13, 2012 at 6:08

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