“You ever do something crazy ‘cause you just don’t know what to do anymore?” That was the question that grieving father John Berlin put to Facebook administrators when he posted a video plea on behalf of his son.
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For Facebook’s 10th anniversary this week, the website released a feature called a “Look Back” video, which would allow users to recollect their own personal social networking histories. Viewing this special offering, which is available for anyone with a profile, took on an extra special meaning for Berlin, of St. Louis, Missouri, whose son, Jesse, died on Jan. 28, 2012.
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Without access to Jesse’s account, Berlin couldn’t retrieve the 62-second video, which he thought would most likely feature photos of his son with friends and family members. After multiple attempts to contact Facebook via email with no response, Berlin recorded a personal video message imploring the company and CEO Mark Zuckerberg to create a Look Back video from Jesse's Facebook timeline. “All we want to do is see his movie. That's it. I don't even need to get on his account. If you guys could … if you guys could just do it yourselves, I don't care," Berlin asked while visibly choking back tears.
In Berlin’s video, which has had nearly 780,000 views since it was posted to YouTube on Feb. 5, he asked friends and strangers to share the appeal, in hopes of reaching the powers that be.
His heartfelt request worked — in just one day, no less. Facebook contacted Berlin directly and promised to create a highlight reel of Jesse’s Facebook activity. “They called me yesterday, Facebook did, saying they're going to make that video, make it especially for us, and send it directly to me,” he said.
Since Berlin made his viral plea, he's become a de facto representative for families who want access to their lost relatives' profiles. “I’ve been getting emails like crazy from people who want to get on their loved ones' Facebook [pages] and can't do it. Apparently, Facebook, they're going to fix that problem.”
In 2009, Max Kelly, the chief security officer at Facebook, announced that when someone passes away, his or her friends or family can request that the profile be “memorialized.” When an account is memorialized, new privacy settings are enabled: Only previously confirmed friends can locate or view the profile, contact information is removed, and any login for the account is permanently locked. The page itself becomes a place for remembrance, allowing friends and family members to post tributes to the person's wall.
Thanks to Berlin, Facebook's Look Back videos may offer another way to remember those we loved and lost too soon.
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