Some days ago, I was going through my Facebook account as I usually do when I wake up in the morning. One of the notifications that caught my attention was “You and Isaac became Facebook friends.” It was our second-year ‘frieniversary’ as Facebook chose to call it. I’m still friends with Isaac on Facebook though Isaac died about two years ago. I remember him some days. I remember talking on the phone with him two days prior his death. But that morning, I had no intention of remembering him, but there he was; on my timeline flashing his usual smile. Nothing had changed about him. His photos still looked lively and made me feel he was still alive and would respond if I said hello to him.
How I felt didn’t matter. He’s dead and gone but what he left behind on the internet still lives on. It’s amazing how our own pieces can outlive us. I asked myself. “How long am I going to be reminded of him though he’s no more with us?” “How does his family feels anytime they see his post and pictures on Facebook?” Do they smile about his memories or they cry about the fact that he would never be seen again?” This and so much more questions kept raging my mind. He’s dead and gone but he will forever have his Facebook, Instagram and Twitter account going.
Everyone reading this post will one day have this same problem—you will die and you’ll be survived by your various social media accounts. How would you like your family to treat your digital properties when you are gone? For me, I wouldn’t like to hang around the living reminding them about the life I once had. I would move on when I die. They should also move on. They should shut down all my social media accounts and leave me to rest in peace.
And there is a way to do that…
Most social networks have realized this issue and have implemented policies that seek to take care of the account of individuals once they become deceased. Though they all address the situations differently, the ultimate aim is to ensure that the accounts of dead people do not remain unattended to.
Facebook handles deceased person’s account in three different ways.
#1. Memorial: Facebook turns the user’s account into a memorial page. What it means is that Facebook will keep the user’s account active but it will not appear in internal search or cannot accept friend’s request and also cannot appear in “People You May Know” section. Facebook then goes the extra mile to secure the account in order to protect the private information of the deceased. To do this, a friend or a family member will have to fill and submit a Memorization request. Before submitting, you must provide sufficient proof of the death of the user. It could be death certificate of the fellow or a link to a news article of the fellow’s death or an obituary post.
#2. Deactivate Account: This option is available to only close family members of the deceased. A documented family member can fill out a Special Request form asking Facebook to shut down the account of a deceased person. But before that, you should be able to prove to Facebook that you are a family member and you can provide documents to prove the death of the user.
#3. Legacy Contact: here, users are able to choose someone in advance as their “Legacy Contact” to manage their account when they die. The legacy contact can help memorialized the deceased user’s page. Facebook gives Legacy contacts ability to make memorial posts, update photos and even respond to friends’ request on behalf of the deceased. All these options can be managed from the Legacy Contact’s own account without login into the deceased person’s account.
Instagram works the same way as Facebook when it comes to managing a deceased person’s account. You can either memorialize or deactivate the deceased’s user account following the same process as it’s done on Facebook.
What happens to your social media accounts in your demise should be part of your social media strategy. You don’t have to pretend it doesn’t matter. It does. People will miss you. Others will want to move on from the hurt your death caused them. They might want to forget but your undying presence on social media might make it hard for them to move on. Do something before you die. You can also leave your passwords to your various accounts behind as part of your will so the family can decide how to deal with them.
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