Facebook will have more dead users than living users by the end of the century, according to a U.S. statistician.
The social network’s refusal to delete the accounts of users who have passed away means the dead will outnumber the living by 2098, steadily transforming it into a massive virtual graveyard.
Hachem Sadikki, a statistician and PhD student at University of Massachusetts, worked with Fusion to model a projection based on Facebook’s growth, demographic data and death rates. The statistical model was based on the assumption that Facebook’s exponential growth will plateau in the near future.
Facebook currently has more than 1.5 million active users, comprised mostly of people from a younger demographic. More than 60 percent of users are under 35, while less than 5 percent are over 65.
According to online legacy company Digital Beyond, 972,000 U.S.-based Facebook users will die in 2016.
When Facebook users die their profiles can be memorialized by their loved ones, allowing friends and family to share memories on the deceased user’s timelines. Memorialized profiles don’t appear in public spaces such as friend suggestions or birthday reminders.
But if no request is made to memorialize an account, it stays active. Facebook still considers the user to be alive, and their birthday alerts, for example, will continue to appear in their contacts’ newsfeeds.
The only way for a user’s account to be deleted after they die is if someone has the password—Facebook respects user privacy even after death and won’t provide access details, even to next of kin—or if the user opted to have their account permanently deleted upon their death through the site’s “legacy contact” settings.
Facebook did not respond to a request for comment on Sadikki’s research.