We’re often told to be careful what we post online, as it will be there forever – even when you die.
In the age of social media, everyone’s digital life remains available after their deaths. However, what each social media platform does with accounts when its users pass away varies – and also depends on the wishes of the immediate family.
For some people, having the option to visit a deceased person’s social media account can offer comfort, while others prefer that the page is deleted for good when a loved one passes away – so some social media platforms offer both options.
On Facebook, where millions of users have died and left behind profiles since the site’s inception, the account of a loved one can be turned into a memorial account or closed forever.
When Facebook, which sees 8,000 members die a day, first introduced memorial accounts, anyone could report a user as dead – which would permanently lock the account and keep it from posting updates or appearing in birthday notifications. However, in 2015, the platform announced a policy that would implement a Legacy Contact who, in the event that a person died, could sign on to the account and “pin a post on the Timeline.”
The Legacy Contact, chosen from someone’s Facebook friends, cannot read the deceased person’s private messages but can change their profile photo and archive posts and photos. Users can also choose to have their profiles permanently deleted when they die, by choosing Settings > General > Memorialisation Settings. Following a loved one’s death, a family member can also request that Facebook removes the profile by sending a death certificate. More information can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/help/103897939701143
Instagram also has a similar policy for dealing with deceased users. According to Instagram’s policy, the account of a deceased person can either be reported and then memorialised, or an immediate family member can request that the account be deleted. To memorialise an account, Instagram requires proof of death “such as a link to an obituary or news article.”
With Twitter, you can request the removal of a deceased user’s account. After you submit your request, they will email you with instructions for providing more details, including information about the deceased, a copy of your ID, and a copy of the deceased’s death certificate.
All of this information is obviously based on the family members not having login details. If they do have the logins, they can simply go into most accounts and deactivate them.
This brings us to one very practical step, keep in a safe place, known to your executor, a non-digital list of all your computer and social media logins and things will be a lot easier for everyone.