Death in Cyber-Space
Have you ever thought about what will happen to all of your social media accounts when you die? Who gets to decide what happens to them? What do you need to provide to prove someone is gone? Have you ever considered a digital executor?
The social media giant Facebook gives you two options: you can delete the account or memorialize it. If you don’t have the password to log in then in order to delete the account you will need either a death certificate or the combination of an obituary and a will, as one example.
If you don’t want to delete the account you could memorialize it instead, which means that your friends can still post to your timeline and look back on old content. The only way to make changes to a memorial account is if you designate a legacy contact before you die. If you designate a legacy contact before you pass then that person will be able to post to your page, respond to friend requests and update your profile picture even once your page is memorialized. If you add someone as a legacy contact in your account settings that person will receive a notification saying you have done so.
Instagram also gives users the option of memorializing accounts, but Twitter does not. No memorial option means you can either leave the account as is or deactivate it. Unfortunately the lack of a memorial option for Twitter means that a deceased person’s account can still be logged into and hacked. Instagram may request a death certificate, which Twitter asks for a death certificate or obituary.
Many people are surprised by the amount of documentation that social networks ask for in order to let you close accounts, and it can come at a very trying time. The very best thing you can do is think of things ahead of time, and designate someone as a legacy contact or provide them with your password if you want your account deleted. Having a Will that appoints an executor is sufficient proof for most social media platforms to allow someone to designate an account – just one more reason to make sure you have a will!