Ah, a new year, a new opportunity to think about your inevitable demise. Or is that just me? At some point, most of us have thought about what will happen to us after we die. However, something we may not have considered is what happens to our digital selves after we die.
In this day and age, we all leave some sort of legacy on the Internet. From social media profiles to blog posts, a biography of our lives is ingrained on the Internet. Does that presence ever go away?
In terms of your social media accounts, the answer depends on the platform. While some social networking sites have integrated ways of handling accounts of the deceased, others haven’t addressed the issue at all. These discrepancies are pretty concerning, especially if your social accounts are linked with your financial accounts or other personal information.
Many suggest making a digital estate plan, which is essentially a will for your online presence. However, you can take steps to protect your social accounts right this second. Here’s how you can do so on each of the major social networking platforms:
Facebook is the most advanced of its peers when it comes to handling profiles of the deceased. The platform offers users the option to elect whether they’d like their account to be memorialized or permanently deleted from Facebook when they die. Memorialized accounts are essentially digital shrines, a place for your Facebook friends to gather and share memories after you have passed. The word “Remembering” is shown next to your name on the profile. All your content stays on Facebook and is visible to the audience you originally shared it with.
You can also set a legacy contact, i.e. someone that can manage your account after you pass away. They’ll have the ability pin a post on your Timeline, respond to new friend requests, and update your profile picture. They won’t be able to post as you or see your messages, so your secrets won’t be exposed.
Twitter doesn’t have any built-in way of addressing the death of a user, but its policy does allow verified family member and estate executors to work with Twitter to deactivate the account in question. Twitter will also remove imagery of deceased individuals in certain circumstances upon the request of authorized individuals.
YouTube offers a way for users to decide the future of their accounts before they die through its parent company, Google. The Inactive Account Manager lets you choose a trusted contact who will be given access to your data when your account has been inactive for a certain period of time.
If you don’t have this feature in place, authorized individuals can request information from your account or permanently close it.
Regardless of which platform you’re on or which option you choose, they all rely on someone notifying the social platform that you have passed away. So it’s a smart idea to designate that responsibility to someone close to you, before it’s actually needed.