In our increasingly connected world, our lives extend to the digital realm, too. We maintain a virtual presence through social media accounts, photos, and memories. But have you ever wondered what happens to your digital footprint when you die? In a time when technology intertwines with nearly every aspect of our existence, the fate of our social media accounts and other digital property after death is a topic of growing significance. The answers vary by platform, and of course, as with all things related to technology, these answers change frequently. Here are the processes as they stand today for three major social media platforms.
Facebook: The Legacy Contact
Facebook allows you to either fully delete your account or memorialize your account after your death. A memorialized profile provides a space for friends and family to share memories after someone has died. The original profile content will stay on Facebook and will be visible with the same privacy settings the user initially selected.
In either case, it’s recommended that you name a Legacy Contact to your account. This is Facebook’s system for handling accounts of deceased users, allowing you to designate a trusted person to manage your account after your passing. To set up a Legacy Contact:
- Go to your Facebook settings.
- Choose “Memorialization Settings.”
- Select a friend or family member as your Legacy Contact.
Your Legacy Contact can perform certain actions on your account after your death, including the following:
- Writing a pinned post to honor your memory.
- Responding to friend requests and updating your profile picture.
- Requesting the permanent removal of your account.
Alternatively, you can choose to have your account permanently deleted upon your death. Someone would need to let Facebook know that you have died, and then all of your information would be permanently removed. Facebook provides this option to ensure your digital footprint doesn’t linger indefinitely.
You can find more details and keep updated on policy changes in Facebook’s Help Center.
Instagram: Memorialized Accounts
Instagram, owned by Facebook, follows a similar approach to dealing with deceased users’ accounts. When an Instagram user dies, their account can be memorialized upon request. Memorialized accounts allow friends and family to remember and celebrate the person’s life while preventing unauthorized access. To memorialize an Instagram account:
- Contact Instagram through their Help Center.
- Provide proof of the person’s passing, such as a death certificate or obituary.
Memorialized accounts differ from regular accounts in several ways:
- The word “Remembering” will appear next to the person’s username.
- No one can log into the account, so therefore, no new photos or videos can be added.
- Posts and content are preserved as they were when the account was memorialized, shared with the same audience. (Privacy settings remain intact.)
X (Formerly Twitter): Deactivation by Request
X has a more straightforward approach when it comes to handling the accounts of deceased users. While X doesn’t offer a feature like Facebook’s Legacy Contact or Instagram’s memorialization, they do allow for account deactivation upon request from a deceased user’s family or representative. Similarly, if someone is incapacitated and you have Power of Attorney, you can request their account be deactivated.
To request the deactivation of a deceased user’s X account:
- Contact X’s Support team.
- Provide information about the deceased user, including their username and a copy of their death certificate.
X will then review the request and, if approved, deactivate the account, making it inaccessible to anyone. These accounts will not be memorialized in any way.
Managing Your Digital Afterlife
As you can see, each social media platform has its own approach to handling accounts of deceased users. To ensure your online presence is managed in a way that aligns with your wishes, here are some steps to consider:
- Inform Loved Ones: Let your close friends and family know about your digital wishes. Share passwords and instructions for accessing your accounts in case of your passing. The legal world can’t keep up with every technological change, so your best bet is to make sure your loved ones are aware of your wishes.
- Designate a Legacy Contact: On Facebook, choose a Legacy Contact who can manage your account in accordance with your wishes. Make sure this person is aware of their role.
- Consider Using a Password Manager: A password manager can securely store your login credentials and make it easier for your designated contacts to access and manage your accounts. Make sure a trusted friend or family member has access to your password manager. This will also give them access to your email accounts, photo accounts, Google Drive, and more. Provide specific wishes for these aspects of your digital life as well.
- Specify Deactivation or Memorialization: Decide whether you want your accounts deactivated or memorialized on platforms like Instagram. Make sure your wishes are known and documented.
- Have a current Power of Attorney: It will be easiest to have accounts deactivated in case of your incapacitation if you have this important document updated.
In an increasingly digital world, addressing the fate of your social media accounts after your passing is becoming more important than ever. Facebook, Instagram, X, and other social media platforms have developed processes to accommodate the digital afterlife of their users, but it’s crucial to proactively manage your online presence to ensure it aligns with your wishes. By taking these steps, you can be sure that your digital legacy is handled with care and respect, leaving a lasting and meaningful memory for your loved ones.
The material contained herein is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to create or constitute an attorney-client relationship between Schromen Law, LLC and the reader. The information contained herein is not offered as legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice.