How to Stage Your Own Death in Six Easy Steps With the If I Die Facebook App

Ah, Facebook. It's both the best loved and most hated site on the Internet, providing you with hours of procrastination material at the office while simultaneously providing evil corporations with your personal information. With each new timeline twist and resetting of its privacy settings, users worldwide utter one universal cry: "Facebook, you are dead to me."

And now, thanks to If I Die, you can be dead to Facebook.

The app, launched in late 2010, posts news of your death to your Facebook wall when three friends of your choosing independently confirm that you have, in fact, croaked. It's simultaneously morbid, sick, and silly. Naturally, we had to try it out. So we joined the ranks of Jon Bon Jovi and Fidel Castro and pranked the Interwebs with news of our own demise. Here's how it worked.

Step One: Install the app
The If I Die installation process is the same as any other Facebook app, with one very big difference: You are imagining your own death the entire time. If I Die's main page doesn't do much to assuage any fears you may have about the memories you'll leave behind:

"What will you leave behind"? If we weren't worried about that before -- which we weren't; otherwise, we wouldn't even be using Facebook in the first place -- we certainly were worried now. But hey, at least any "SWEET JESUS, MY LIFE COULD END AT ANY TIME" feelings inspired by the subject matter are offset by its promise of "life after death," not to mention its cheery, Twitter-meets-pearly gates interface, right?

The YouTube video in the above screenshot helpfully explains the purpose of If I Die, complete with an adorable, animated grim reaper and cartoons meeting all manner of gruesome ends:

They're right -- we don't remember scheduling an appointment with death! And we still have to flip the bird to all our exes and remind our loved ones to wear sunscreen! Thank goodness for If I Die. We clicked "leave a text message" to continue. (We also had the option to record a "last words" video, but hey, we're bloggers, not movie stars.)

Step two: Authorize If I Die
For an app tasked with the responsibility of delivering your last words to your loved ones, If I Die isn't all that invasive -- at least as Facebook goes.

All it wants to do is know who you are, send you email, and post to Facebook on your behalf -- which, after all, is the point of this whole thing. By contrast, the Pink Ribbon app, whose stated purpose is merely to raise breast cancer awareness, wants access to your profile info, family and relationships, your photos and videos, the information your friends share with you, and the ability to access your data even when you're not online. Makes If I Die look downright saintly, no?

Step three: Pen your last words
Until now, we'd approached this whole "staging our own death" thing as a joke. But when If I Die asked us to type our final thoughts into its tiny text box, shit got real. Did we really want to go out like petty bitches, trashing lovers who'd wronged us? Weren't our insights about life the same cliches as everyone else's? Wouldn't we rather die for a cause?

Of course we would. And as tireless culture bloggers, there's only one cause we were ready to lay down our lives for:

We hoped and prayed NBC would not let our fake death be in vain and renew Community for another season. And wouldn't you know it? It worked!

Step four: Choose your "trustees"
A friend you can trust to take you, your reputation on Facebook, and the If I Die app seriously -- all at the same time -- is a special friend indeed. Sadly, if you're genuinely invested in posting your final words to Facebook upon your death, you might not have enough of them to proceed. If I Die requires at least three "trustees," or Facebook friends you've authorized to report your death, to confirm your passing in order to post about it to the rest of the world.

That, in turn, sends an app request to your chosen few, requiring them to accept the honor. If your friends don't respond, it might be because their settings have turned off app requests from their friends. It might also be because they secretly despise you, because you're always bugging them with stupid requests like these.

Probably, though, it's because they fear they're not good enough to take on the responsibility -- nay, the honor -- of trusteeship. Try your best to persuade them of their worthiness.

Step five: Die
Or, in our case, "die." When our trusty trustees, aka our similarly sick-minded colleagues in the office, had all accepted our requests, we let them know via email: "I'm dead. It's time to tell the world."

Dutifully, and with what we can only assume were real, salt tears streaming down their cheeks, they logged into If I Die to confirm.

The app's "deepest sympathy" is kinda canceled out by the fact that it just assumes the deceased is a dude -- especially since we've already given it access to our personal information on Facebook. It's not true that the deceased is male, but unfortunately, it's true that she is, in fact, deceased.

Though the app cares not for your gender, it does care about accurately reporting your death. Remember when you gave ifidie permission to email you? That's so it can let you know when one of your trustees reports your death -- just in case this is all one big joke. (Who would do such a thing?)

How sweet -- the trekkies who work for If I Die are concerned for our well-being.

Step six: If I Die's post
We're not gonna lie -- it took a lot of planning to set this thing up. And that makes If I Die's notification, well, not exactly the payoff we were expecting.

That's it. No giant image of a golden plaque or a gravestone. No clear authoritative voice (other than the third trustee to confirm your death) to confirm that you've really passed. You can barely even read our last words. [Ed. note: And for fuck's sake, I am a lady.] For centuries, humankind has wondered what happens when you die. This is even more underwhelming than we'd guessed.

We'd hoped to collect responses from our friends and family, to uncover how unsuspecting Facebook connections would actually respond to a death announcement on our own wall. But no one -- not a single person -- commented on the above post. Hell, nobody even liked it.

Maybe it's because we're the kind of douchebags who'd stage our own death on the Internet. But we're choosing to believe it's because the whole thing looks like Facebook spam, or some sort of stupid prank.

Then again, that's exactly what this was anyway.

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Ciara LaVelle is New Times' former arts and culture editor. She earned her BS in journalism at Boston University and moved to Florida in 2004. She joined New Times' staff in 2011.
Contact: Ciara LaVelle