Have you ever considered what will happen to all your social media accounts after you die? It may not be a topic that we want to think about but it is important. What really brought it home to me was this article, the story of a Mother who found comfort in accessing her deceased daughters account and reading messages. Facebook eventually blocked access to the account. As much as I sympathise with the parent in this situation it led me to thinking about how I would feel if my loved ones could access my social media accounts after my death. Would I want people to read my personal messages? The answer for me at least is no. We are all encouraged to make a will so that there can be no confusion when we are gone as to what should happen to our assets, we may add details on how and where we want to be buried or cremated, how the funeral should be conducted so why not add social media to this list?
What are the options?
Of all the social networks I looked at Facebook really do have it sussed, they are the only ones to have thought it out fully and offered options to the relatives and loved ones of the deceased.
Facebook has a policy of ‘Memorialising’ pages of deceased users, you can apply to have the page of a loved one memorialised here. Memorialising a page means that only friends will be able to see the page or find it in the search. There is no access to the account, no log in and it cannot be altered or accessed by anyone.
Remove page – if you are not comfortable with the memorial style page you can request that a close relative applies to have the page removed. Click here for more info.
I’ve always loved those films where someone records a video to be shown after their death, usually resulting in some sort of caper or chase to find the missing inheritance. Maybe that’s why this app appeals to me, it allows you to record a video or write an update and posts it to your Facebook Timeline when you are gone. Of course I’ve not been able to test it and I guess there’s no guarantee that Facebook will still exist by the time I’m gone, but it’s a nice idea.
There are fewer options with Twitter, however I’d be less worried about access to my Twitter account. Most of what we do on Twitter is public and with DM’s being restricted to 14o characters there’s no real conversation there. Twitter accounts can be removed if proper documentation is produced. More here.
It’s harder to find information on what will happen to Google+ if you die. This article suggests that a Gmail account will automatically be deleted nine months after your last login. Google has a process that relatives or next of kin of deceased persons can follow to get access to accounts. There are a lot of hoops to jump through which is yet another reason to include details of accounts in your will if you wish someone to have or not have access after your death.
For Linkedin the only option is to apply to have the account deleted. Here’s full details on the process.
This is probably a part of you that you would like to live on. Your words of wisdom, carefully crafted online forever. It’s unclear what happens to your blog if you use Blogger, will your blog disappear when your Gmail account gets deactivated? The solution is to regularly back up the content and make sure you express your wishes and details of the backups in your will. If you wish to delete the blog entirely the process is easier, although your executors will need access to the account so make sure you include log in details in your will or in a place where they can be easily accessed.
If you are using WordPress.com the good news is the sites don’t seem to disappear. I’ve just looked at a blog I set up about five years ago… and never blogged on and it’s still there. However, as with Blogger backing up on a regular basis is always a good idea. If you want the site deleted here’s the details.
If you are using WordPress.org, hosting on your own site, your blog will only last as long as you keep renewing your domain name and hosting package. If you want your blog to live on it’s important to make sure that your executors know how to back up the information and you should think about leaving an allowance to keep the site up and running after your death.
What should you do next?
Visit your solicitor and be sure to have details on how you want your digital life handled after your death added to your will. We are encouraged to change passwords on a regular basis for privacy so including log in details in the will itself won’t really work. Instead keep a record of where your executors can find the login details if you want them to have access once you are deceased.
How do you want to be remembered digitally? Do you want to let your blog live on long after you are gone or would you prefer to let all your social media die with you? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.
Thought provoking blog post Amanda. I wouldn’t be so concerned about my facebook and twitter accounts but I’d like my personal blog to be left live for posterity. I like the idea of a researcher in the future coming across it just as I would have researched amongst old letters when doing my dissertation many moons ago 🙂
Amanda Webb says
Yes I think I’d like my blog to stay too. But as it stands it would need to be paid for to keep, it’s not until you start thinking about this that you can put the logistics in place.
Very interesting article Amanda, it’s certainly something to think about. I’d hate for people to be reading my personal fb messages without me being there to reason why I’ve written certain things, and I definitely wouldn’t like to see people writing from a dead person’s account, but I have searched for someone I know who has died, just so I could look at their profile picture when I was thinking of him (bit morbid maybe) . But the idea of the personal blog as a testament of sorts is a lovely idea.
Amanda Webb says
I love the idea of a blog that lives on after I’ve gone. It’s a legacy and unlike a book there are so many personal blogs out there, personal accounts of what it is like to live in the 21st century that it’s definitely worth retaining. Like you I don’t want anyone reading my personal messages on Facebook, much the way I wouldn’t want anyone to read a personal diary I kept, it would also infringe on the privacy of those I message. I like that Facebook have spent some time thinking about this and the memorialised pages seem like a good plan.