Losing a friend or family member is painful enough. When someone passes away, what happens to their social media profiles and digital footprint on the Internet? As someone who has lost several close family members over the past several years, it’s a draining and overwhelming process sorting through papers, pictures, and making plans for the future or funeral arrangements.
Digital Death and How to Memorialize a Facebook Page
Social media offers an opportunity for people to join together in a common place and reflect, mourn, remember, and share how a lost loved one touched their lives. The procedures vary across social media and the internet regarding the access family members have to social profiles, email, and online accounts when someone leaves this Earth.
In 2009, a Facebook employee, Max Kelly lost his best friend. Max wondered what would happen to his friend’s Facebook profile after he passed. Facebook had no standard procedures and looked to their users to give feedback. Facebook profiles can now be memorialized where they will no longer show up in suggested friends or via search. Once memorialized, confirmed friends can only see the person’s profile. To memorialize a Facebook personal page, complete the form linked here. Myspace has a similar procedure for profile memorialization. In both cases you will need to submit an electronic death certificate.
Twitter, as of late 2010, offers the opportunity for family members to close a deceased family members’s Twitter account or recover their public tweets. Family members must have a direct link to the obituary, the person requesting a direct link to the deceased, and their Twitter user ID. Twitter’s help section offers more information on how and where to send the request.
Family members must complete a verification of death form complete with a copy of the death certificate. This process closes the account of the deceased. Here is the link to the entire process and verification form from LinkedIn.
Navigating Online Outside of Social Media for Family
Social media and the internet are more than just social profiles. Email has become an important part of communication. Contact information is often stored electronically. Bills, bank statements, and account information are often established and maintained online making it important for family members to have access to accounts quickly and efficiently.
Since Google owns half the world, family members can contact Google to access a person’s gmail account, their Google +, YouTube, Blog, and other services. Blogs will not be deleted. Once a request is submitted it can take up to 30 days for access to the deceased email and other accounts. For faster service, a letter from your attorney directly to Google can do the trick.
Other Online Communities.
Each community, website, and company has their own procedure. A phone call or email to their help desk along with a copy of the required documents makes the process easier. Once family members have access to the deceased primary email account, it is much easier to determine the person’s electronic footprint.
What Happens When You Die to Social Media?
The grieving process is never easy, and when we lose a family member our lives are never the same. Talking with your family about your activities, accounts, and wishes both online and offline are important before we leave this Earth. My hope is this article helps family members and friends who have lost someone they love navigate the murky waters of the online world a little easier.