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There are a variety of ways that people can prepare for their inevitable passing – they can fill out complicated wills, sign up for expensive life insurance policies, provide specific instructions on how they want to be buried or cremated, and take elaborate steps to ensure that their loved ones are well taken care of when they are no longer able to do so. But here’s one thing that they do not routinely do – they do not take adequate steps to ensure that their social media accounts will live on after they die.
And that’s really a big question to consider because the default policy in the social media world is to turn off or delete inactive accounts. So if you’ve passed on to the Great Unknown and haven’t been making any social media posts in awhile (obviously), it’s only natural that your social media account will be turned off at some later date. Or, perhaps even worse, hackers might one day get into your account, steal your user credentials, and start posting in your name without anyone realizing what’s going on. So, against this backdrop, it’s worth considering what happens to your social media accounts when you die.
How Facebook handles accounts of deceased users
Of all the major social media platforms, Facebook has by far the most extensive rules and policies for what can – and can’t – happen to your social media account when you die. With Facebook, you can designate a “legacy contact” to manage your account on your behalf. You can think of this “legacy contact” the same way that you think about the “executor” of a will – it’s someone who has been given exclusive power to manage your assets, but who cannot take any steps that have not been specifically laid out by you in advance.
Your Facebook legacy contact, for example, can write a pinned post for your profile as a final farewell or thank you message. However, that same Facebook legacy contact cannot log into your account in order to delete friends from your social network or start posting in your name. What’s great about this Facebook option is that it’s so easy to set up – all you need to do is log into your General Account Settings, choose “Memorialization Settings” and then choose your legacy contact.
How other social media platforms handle accounts of deceased users
Instagram, too, makes it relatively easy for users to put into place rules for how their account should be managed after their passing. While Instagram does not offer the “legacy contact” feature, it does make it easy for users to handle a variety of thorny issues – such as determining who can post tributes on your account, who can see your feed in the future, and whether or not your profile photo and cover image can be changed. Instagram also gives you the option to delete your account after you pass away. As long as loved ones can provide proof of your passing, this is easy to put into place.
Twitter, for its part, is also working on a new feature called “Memorial Accounts” that will make it easier for accounts of well-known, notable or important historical figures to live on in perpetuity. It’s less clear, however, how extensive this feature will be for the average man or woman. But give Twitter credit – the company got a huge backlash when it said that it was simply going to delete all inactive accounts, so it is taking steps to preserve inactive accounts of those who have passed away.
Practical steps to take
That being said, it’s worth looking into your options on social media, especially if you have an existing medical condition or have already lived past a certain age. (Let’s be realists here, folks. In the era of COVID-19, none of us really know what might happen tomorrow.) It’s up to you to own your digital footprint and ensure that your loved ones will be able to remember you forever. Take steps now to save your social media accounts and in the case of Facebook, to set up a legacy contact who can manage your account on your behalf.