What to do with your, or your loved ones, social media accounts after death
The internet and social media have revolutionised the way we live our lives and the way we interact with each other. We’ve never lived in a time where we have been both so fragmented – with families dispersed across the country and globe – and at the same time so connected with most of us walking around with a super-computer in our hand. Death and bereavement are as old as time and one thing’s for sure – we are now living and dying in a digital age and our use of social media and the web has created an opportunity for us to plan for our deaths and also grieve and commemorate our lost loved ones differently. For better or worse, knowing how to navigate this new virtual landscape is becoming ever more relevant and necessary, as Rowcroft’s Head of Education Kerry Macnish explains in this blog.
From physical to digital
In the past, personal information about our lives was always stored in a physical form, for example in photo albums, scrap books, letters, postcards or documents – and this information was relatively easy to find and access by loved ones left behind after someone’s death. Now however, while some of us may still possess the odd photo album or document, a great deal of our information is stored digitally, and sometimes not even on computers or phones, but on ‘the cloud’. This means that everything from videos and digital photos, to emails, social media posts, documents and contracts are not easily accessible without legacy planning.
The need for digital legacy planning
While it may not be an easy task to approach, taking stock of your digital life and planning what will happen when you’re no longer here is critical to ensuring that your information can be handled and disseminated in the way that you wish. Whether you want your information destroyed, stored or memorialised, many social media platforms now offer options for handling users’ data after death.
Digital legacies on Facebook
Facebook memorialises accounts when a family member or close friend lets them know of a death. In a memorialised account, the account will stay visible on the social platform and act as a ‘digital gravestone’. The word ‘remembering’ is placed next to the name, and friends and family can share memories on the page’s memorialised timeline.
Some people feel comfort in being able to see kind supportive messages posted on a deceased person’s memorial page but others understandably do not. Facebook enables family members to request to remove a deceased person’s account. To do this you must provide Facebook with the correct documentation to confirm that you are a loved one or an executor of the account holder, alongside a scan of your loved one’s death certificate.
Facebook also offers users the option to set a legacy contact in their settings to allow someone else to manage their page when they die. This person is then responsible for carrying out the plans that have been discussed and agreed with the deceased.
Instagram has made two simple steps for reporting a deceased person’s account. You are able to report an account to Instagram for memorialisation, or if you are an immediate family member you are able to request that the account is removed from the site.
Rowcroft’s free education about preparing for a digital after-life
We have developed an online workshop, the Digital Afterlife – helping others to prepare their digital legacy, to help health and social care professionals support patients and their loved ones to prepare their digital legacy. The workshop covers a range of topics including: understanding the term digital legacy and how to manage these assets after death; and how to pass on digital assets using a digital will. The workshop will also help raise confidence to discuss these subjects with others so that they can chose how to memorialise or delete social media accounts.
Rowcroft has also produced a short guide, Death in a digital age, to help you navigate some of the available options on social media when faced with a palliative illness or experiencing a bereavement.
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