Nearly 80% of Australians now use social media, with 59% of us accessing it either daily or most days. Facebook and Instagram have become our photo albums and repositories of family memories, and social media is no longer the province just of the young. People of all ages are sharing their lives with the world.
But have you thought about how your social media assets should be managed when you die? And do you know what to do with the accounts of those close to you if they pass away? While not a legally recognised role, you may find yourself acting as someone’s ‘digital executor’.
Keep or delete?
The first question is whether to keep or delete the social media account.
Many social media platforms allow accounts to be memorialised. This means content can be retained and viewed by those with whom it was initially shared. It can be a nice way for a friend or family member to be remembered or to maintain a family archive.
Many people, however, would prefer that their social media presence disappears once they die. It’s a personal choice, and an important one, so make sure that your loved ones know what your preference is.
That said, what you can do with an account will depend on the particular platform. For example, LinkedIn will remove the profile of a deceased member, but does not offer the option for the account to be memorialised.
Facebook, on the other hand, allows you to nominate a legacy contact – someone who can look after your account if it is memorialised. This includes responding to new friend requests and adding a final post to your profile.
Instagram accounts can be memorialised, but such accounts can’t be changed in any way.
Twitter offers account deactivation, but does not provide account access to anyone, regardless of the relationship to the deceased.
Clearly, an important part of managing social media accounts after death is making sure the appropriate people know which sites you are using. Providing them with regularly updated details of your accounts will make life much easier for them.
Access all areas
As an alternative to going through the various processes for each site, and particularly if the aim is to have all of your accounts shut down after death, you can give a trusted person the login details and passwords for all of your accounts.
A number of password management services are available that allow your nominee to request access to all of the passwords you need to share. If, due to your death or incapacity, you don’t block the request within a period of time that you stipulate, access will be granted. With some services you can also store other information, such as details of current insurance policies or social media accounts.
Talk to your significant others
Once you have your own plans in place and, most importantly, discussed them with your nearest and dearest, make sure you encourage all of your family, regardless of age, to provide their own instructions.
At a time of grief, it’s better to know that you are carrying out a loved one’s wishes, rather than trying to guess how they would want their social media legacy to be handled.
Choice - Will your loved ones lose your digital legacy?