Thursday, April 21, 2011

Social Media After Death (Five Steps to Plan Your Digital Afterlife)

As the population of social media users increases (and ages), the topic of what happens to your social networks after you die is bound to come up. The recent death of one of my young coworkers, who was active on Facebook, brought the issue to mind for me when I overheard one coworker say to another "What? But I didn't see anything about it on Facebook!" As someone with Facebook and Twitter friends in many states and countries, I've often thought that for the news of my death to reach my entire circle of friends, it would have to be posted on my social networks. But these things don't happen automatically, and social media may not be a priority for a grieving family. It's up to users, therefore, to make their wishes known in terms of if and how they would like their social profiles handled in the event of their death.

Here are five steps to plan your social media afterlife:
  1. Make a plan (aka follow these steps). Yes, it's uncomfortable to think about. But if the worst happens, you and your loved ones will be prepared. (I'm starting to sound like a funeral home...)
  2. Make it safe. Just emailing your usernames and passwords to your mom doesn't cut it. Either keep a hard copy in a safe, secure place or find an online resource to safeguard your privacy. Check out Mashable for a few resources (some free, others paid) that provide everything from username and password transfers to emails from the afterlife:
  3. Think about what information you want out there after you're gone and what can be taken down (photos, posts, profile information, etc)
  4. Consider how you'd like people to be able to interact with your profiles after your death. It can help in the grieving process, for example, for friends to be able to leave messages on the Facebook wall of a deceased person or access their photos. When a person is reported as deceased on Facebook, their account is "memorialized" and privacy settings are enhanced to allow only friends to see the profile or locate it in search.
  5. Share your wishes with your loved ones. Having a plan is great, but only effective if someone knows what that plan is.
There are a lot of resources out there on this topic, but I hope this post has provided a basic framework to help you begin your own plan.

For those of you who have unfortunately experienced the loss of a loved one without this type of plan in place, Facebook provides a form to report a deceased person. Filling out this form will prompt Facebook to memorialize the person's account. On Twitter, loved ones can contact the company via mail or email and provide verification of the death to deactive the account and/or save a backup of the user's public Tweets. Check the policies or help sections of other social networks to find information on their process for handling profiles after death.

UPDATE: Here are some very thorough and useful articles on this topic from an Australian life insurance copmany.

1 comment:

  1. There's a new service that will post videos online for you after you die.

    its not ready yet but you can be alerted when they launch. pretty cool