According to recent news Facebook is going to include deactived accounts in total friend count. Webpronews.com says that Facebook has given a statement where they explain this with the possibility to “prevent any possible security risk posed by temporarily deactivated friends.” When deactived accounts are showing, users will be able to defriend them if willing.
When you click on the image of a deactived friend from your friend list a following notification appears: “This account has been deactivated. Only you can see N.N. on your friends list. You have the option to unfriend N.N.”
Now Facebook’s explanation is definitely plausible. Deactivated accounts are vague points existing on the verge of actual and virtual; any deactivated point can be reactivated (and hence as Facebook suggest create for example a security threat).
However, for me, the problem of deactived accounts showing on the friend count imply another transformation regarding the role of the user in social media that needs to be problematized. Indeed, the question is, what do these passive ‘users’ tell us about social media and participatory culture since they do not participate or generate content? Might they actually indicate a somewhat bigger change in how user is understood and defined within social media?