Our online profiles can live on long after we’ve passed away. This isn’t something people thought about only a few years ago. But with the growing popularity of social media, it’s becoming more of a concern for those considering their legacy and the grieving families left behind.
Social media sites are starting to address this, providing support to loved ones looking to secure accounts belonging to deceased family members.
How sites deal with a user’s death
The level of help that social media sites are willing to provide to families after someone passes away varies. Unless you have the password and can login yourself, you might need to provide information to start the deactivation process. This may include things like a copy of a death certificate, link to an obituary and your relationship to the deceased.
Here’s an overview of the options available for some of New Zealand’s most popular social media sites.
One of the most popular social media platforms, 73 per cent of New Zealanders said they use Facebook as of January 2018. That’s almost 3.5 million people, including over 600,000 Kiwis over the age of 55.
Facebook has taken the lead in dealing with accounts after users have passed away. Loved ones can opt to have the account deleted, or can have it memorialised. Memorialised accounts display the word “remembering” next to the person’s name, and removes them from friend suggestions and birthday reminders. Depending on the privacy settings chosen before their passing, friends can still post on the timeline and view anything the owner shared whilst they were alive.
Users can also choose a legacy contact for their profile before their death. This person looks after your account if it is ever memorialised. You can allow the legacy contact to do certain things, such as share a final message on your behalf or download a copy of everything you’ve shared on Facebook, including photos and videos.
Whilst Instagram is owned by Facebook, it’s memorlised accounts are a bit different. These accounts do not appear any different to ones that have not been memorliased. However, they are removed from “people you may know” suggestions and other areas that could be upsetting to family and friends. Anything the owner posted prior to their death is still viewable to those they shared it with, but a memorialised account cannot be changed in any way, including deleting followers, posts or comments.
Immediate family can also request that an account be deleted.
Google, which owns this popular video site, recognises that people often pass away without leaving clear instructions for their online accounts. They generally try to work with family members or the executor of a Will to close profiles, and in some circumstances, may provide content from a deceased user’s account. These requests are generally decided on a case-by-case basis.
YouTube users do have the option of choosing an inactive account manager to look after all their Google-related accounts when they’ve passed away. You can choose what data you’d like shared with your nominated manager, which they will be able to download after your death.
Pinterest, Twitter & LinkedIn
These three sites do not currently offer options for memorialising a deceased person’s profile. Family members can only request that an account be deleted, along with everything that was shared on it.
Before you close a loved one’s account
Some families may welcome the security provided by deleting a loved one’s social media profiles. A deactivated account cannot be hacked, and grieving family and friends won’t need to worry about receiving “ghost” messages or unexpectedly seeing the deceased pop up in their timelines.
However, it’s important to remember that deleting an account is permanent. Any content your loved one shared prior to their death—photos, videos, thoughts, messages—will be gone forever. Since much of this may only exist on the social media site where it was posted, you may be removing treasured reminders of their day-to-day life.
Social media is becoming a bigger part of our everyday lives, impacting those around us even after we’re gone. Our profiles can hold fond memories for those closest to us, and even become online tributes to those we love. How we handle these accounts could help us say goodbye and honour people into the future.
More questions about securing online profiles after death? Learn how you can help family members deal with email, computer files and more.
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is of general nature, and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs or seek professional advice, where necessary.
About Author: Momentum Life is a leading provider of Life insurance, Funeral insurance and Accident insurance in New Zealand.