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Facebook's social algorithms can create some awkward situations. A friend once joked that the "People You May Know" box should be labeled, "People You Know, But Don't Really Like."

But, Jenna Wortham reports, some of the site's automatic suggestions may create much more emotionally fraught situations.
 

Tamu Townsend, a 37-year-old technical writer in Montreal, said she regularly received prompts to connect with acquaintances and friends who had died. "Sometimes it's quite comforting when their faces show up," Ms. Townsend said. "But at some point it doesn't become comforting to see that. The service is telling you to reconnect with someone you can't. If it's someone that has passed away recently enough, it smarts."

And actuarially speaking, with more older people joining the network, the once rare ghost-in-the-machine problem will soon be much more common.

Via Steve Silberman

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science website in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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