Rusty Foster vacationed with his wife in Cancun, Mexico and didn't check his Facebook account the entire time.
When he returned to his Peaks Island, Maine home, he attempted to log on only to find that he was dead - or at least that's what Facebook thought.
"Everything seemed OK, but I didn't try to post anything until Thursday," Foster told NBC News.
When he tried to log on a pink box displayed on his screen reading:
This account is in a special memorial state. If you have any questions or concerns, please visit the Help Center for further information.
While he was away on vacation, one of Fosters friends pranked him by declaring him dead on Facebook.
Since Facebook has no realtime customer service hotline, he wrote a note to the social news site Buzzfeed.
When NBC News contacted Facebook for clarification on their policy, a spokesperson emailed the following statement:
We have designed the memorialization process to be effective for grieving families and friends, while still providing precautions to protect against either erroneous or malicious efforts to memorialize the account of someone who is not deceased. We also provide an appeals process for the rare instances in which accounts are mistakenly reported or inadvertently memorialized.
Prior to 2009, Facebook users that died would continue to appear on their friends profiles, creeping them out from the grave.
So they came up with the "memorializing" option, allowing loved ones to notify Facebook of their friends' death and preventing the social network from making inappropriate suggestions that could be potentially upsetting (offers to "reconnect" with the deceased.)
Foster attempted to revive his account by submitting an appeal to Facebook. He filled out the online form titled " My Personal Account is in a Special Memorialized State. "
But he was discouraged at the automated reply that he received that stated, "We are very sorry to hear about your loss", so he sent a note to BuzzFeed where word reached reporter Katie Notopoulos.
Notopoulos decided that the best way to research Foster's predicament was to do the exact same thing to her friend and colleague John Herrman .
Notopoulos filled out a memorialization form for Herrman complete with a "proof of death" in the form of an online obituary of a much older John Herrmann of Nebraska. Aside from the age and geological differences, his last name is spelled differently than Herrman's.
For Rusty Foster, 36, of Maine, his friend submitted an obituary for a Russell Foster, 80 of Mississippi.
Herrman told NBC News that he learned that he was "dead" when he tried to log on to Facebook just like Foster did. When he saw the pink box, he filled out the form to set things straight and recieved the same "sorry for your loss" email.
But in Herrman's case, it only took less than an hour for his account to be reinstated after he posted the article "How Almost Anyone Can Take You Off Facebook (And Lock You Out)" on BuzzFeed.
Foster's profile was eventually reinstated days later.