Whether you are faced with the task of doing ‘something’ about a loved one’s social media accounts after his or her death, or you are planning for what you would like to happen with your own accounts after your death, the pervasive use of social media to meticulously catalog our lives has made our social accounts into a physical asset—one that we need to decide ‘what to do with’ after death. The thing is, your social media accounts, while they are a digital visual record of your life, they can also bring joy or painful memories to friends and family.
- If you posted impulsively, with anger and vitriol, or without concern for context or maturity, this may not be the way that others want to remember you.
- If your account is not attended to after death, friends and followers will get automated alerts and reminders that may upset them.
- If your account is not attended to, others can continue to post and comment within the account and doing so may be upsetting to family.
- On the other hand, active social media accounts can keep the memory of a loved one alive and this may bring comfort to friends and family.
Being part of the Digital Age means that planning for how to handle your social media accounts should be part of the end of life planning process. This is part of The Tech Talk, where as a family we discuss on a regular basis the ways technology impacts our lives and how we choose to manage the presence of technology. Ask yourself—and tell your loved ones—what you want done with your accounts after death. Your options will vary by service:
A friend or family member makes the request to deactivate the account and provides an ID as well as a copy of a death certificate.
To deactivate, a friend or family member fills out the form below.
While you can deactivate a Facebook account, they is also the option here to “memorialize” the accounts of deceased users, by adding a “Remembering” badge to the profile. This process also hides the profile from public spaces and prevents anyone who was not previously a friend from logging onto the account. The content the user posted previously is visible and, depending on the settings, friends can add photos and comments to the account. Facebook also allows a legacy contact to be appointed (18+) who can look after your account if it’s memorialized. Once your account is memorialized, your legacy contact will have the option to do things like:
- Write a pinned post for your profile (example: to share a final message on your behalf or provide information about a memorial service). But, if your timeline and tagging settings don’t allow anyone other than you to post on your timeline, your legacy contact won’t be able to add a pinned post to your profile once it’s memorialized.
- Respond to new friend requests (example: old friends or family members who weren’t yet on Facebook).
- Update your profile picture and cover photo.
- Request the removal of your account.
Once your account is memorialized, your legacy contact can’t:
- Log into your account.
- Remove or change past posts, photos and other things shared on your timeline.
- Read your messages.
- Remove any of your friends or make new friend requests.
- Add a new legacy contact to your account.
If you don’t appoint a legacy contact prior to your death, nothing about your profile can be changed once it’s memorialized. To appoint a legacy contact:
- Go to Settings
- Then Security
- Then Legacy Contact
- Type in any Facebook friend’s name and hit “Add”
- After you click Send, your friend will be notified that they’ve been appointed as your legacy contact
Instagram also allows account deactivation AND offers the option of a memorialized account. Once the account is memorialized, it is hidden from public spaces and no one can log into the account. Instagram does not offer an option for a legacy contact.
Don’t forget to leave your login information with someone you trust. Social media sites will not share them with your loved ones after your death. While you CAN login into loved one’s account before it is memorialized on Facebook and Instagram—if you have their login information—and edit and make changes to the account—this technically is against Facebook and Instagram policy. However, your loved ones may want to choose to do a little social media hygiene cleaning before the account is memorialized.
Much like writing a will, these are not necessarily pleasant tasks to be thinking about. But planning for your social media life after death in advance will make things much easier on your loved ones as they grieve your passing.
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