Finding Stability

Social Media Accounts After Death: Managing a Digital Legacy

After the death of a loved one, his or her social media accounts often become an online memorial, providing a virtual location for remote friends and family to connect, remember and grieve together. You can dictate what happens to your social media accounts after death.

The popularity of social media, and the extent to which people use these services to communicate, introduces a new question: what happens to social media accounts after death? It’s a situation that changes as your use of these services evolves, and each of the social media platforms has a slightly different way of managing this situation.

The Big One: Facebook

It wasn’t long ago that Facebook’s policy was to delete the account when someone died. If a loved one passed away during that time, all of your photos together and interactions would also be removed. Since then, Facebook has changed their policy to provide another option. A Facebook account can become a memorialized account.

Accounts that are memorialized on Facebook are designated as such with the word “Remembering” in front of the account name. The photos and messages will remain with the same privacy access that existed before. For instance, content that had the privacy setting “Friends Only” will still only be accessible to those who have a friendship connection via their Facebook accounts.

Facebook users can designate someone as a legacy contact to manage their Facebook accounts after they die by going to Settings, then Security and clicking edit on the Legacy Contact section. The person assigned this role will be able to post a final message on behalf of the person who passed away and change the profile and cover photos. Users don’t need to share passwords with their legacy contacts for them to manage this process. In fact, the terms of service for most of the social media platforms forbid the sharing of passwords and logging in as someone else.

A legacy contact isn’t necessary in order for an account to be memorialized. A family member can contact Facebook directly about the profile holder’s death and request that the account be placed in memorial mode. In this case, however, no one will be able to go in and change the profile photo or cover photo.

Benefits of a Legacy Account

When a Facebook account is deleted, so are all of the social interactions and photos with friends. This can be heartbreaking all over again for grieving loved ones. This second, memorial option allows for the preservation of those precious photos and online interactions. Additionally, loved ones can continue to interact with the account, sharing more memories and photos and collectively reminiscing online.

It is, of course, up to personal preference. If desired, users can have their accounts deleted rather than placed in a memorial status. Users can designate their accounts to be deleted after their death in the Security section. If a user hasn’t designated a legacy contact, their family can also request that the account be deleted after the user’s death by contacting Facebook.

Other Social Media Accounts

Instagram also allows accounts to be memorialized after the death of the profile holder, but currently, they don’t offer the role of a proxy to manage that account. Family members can request that a person’s Instagram account be deleted after his or her death. Twitter provides a much more immediate type of social media interaction, and they don’t provide memorialized accounts. Family members can contact Twitter to advise that the profile holder died, and Twitter will delete the account. Mashable provides a helpful chart that outlines how much time there is to do something with your deceased loved one’s accounts and the information you need when contacting each platform.

The question of what to do with social media accounts after death is worth considering now, so family members don’t have to guess at your wishes later.

The loss of a loved one comes with a unique set of challenges and emotions. Counseling can help you process during this difficult time.

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Judy Schwartz Haley
Judy Schwartz Haley