The Digital Afterlife
So, we all have social media accounts, whether we’re tweeting, posting to Facebook, adding to Google+ circles or connecting on LinkedIn. We use these sites to maintain relationships with people around the world (or to complain about the number of baby pictures in your newsfeed). There is always a discussion around what should happen to your social media accounts once you pass away. However strange we (or rather, I) think it is, Facebook actually memorializes accounts of the deceased. The account can also be removed by a verified family member but Facebook definitely promotes memorialization more than deletion. A friend of mine passed away a few years ago and through Facebook, every year I get reminded of his birthday. I find that a bit sad as I’m sure others do as well.
Twitter takes a slightly different approach. They require a death certificate, a notarized statement and a copy of your driver’s license to deactivate a loved one’s Twitter account. That’s a lot of steps considering all of the other things you’ll need to handle when someone passes away. LinkedIn requires you to complete a Verification of Death form which seems very straightforward and simple.
Let’s think beyond social media for a minute. How much digital information is out there for one person? There’s probably a few e-mail accounts – one for junk mail and one for every day use (until it becomes full of junk mail). I can go through all of my logins in 1Password and tell you, I have a heck of a lot of accounts out there. It’s important for the immediate family of the deceased to remove any accounts that hold personal banking or credit card information such as an Amazon account, credit card sites, things like Groupon, Netflix, and the list goes on. We have so much information out there and so many accounts, how could the family of the dearly departed possible know where to start?
Well, for me, that’s fairly easy given they know about my 1Password account and have the login information. Ideally, this should be formalized in some way through the use of a will. There are even sites dedicated to creating social media wills. We can and should start to make this process easier for those who will be responsible for our estates when we pass on.
And then… there’s things like DeadSocial if you really want to mess with people after you’ve kicked the bucket.