What Happens to Your Social Media Accounts When You Die?

Last night I had a nightmare:  What happens to your social media accounts when you die?   I suppose it doesn’t make much difference to the deceased, but your Facebook “Friends” might like to know so they won’t be prompted to send you a Happy Birthday message each year.

Social Media

It appears that I am not the first person to reflect on this New Age question.  In a somewhat disturbing article, the BBC posed the same question well over two years ago:   What Happens to Your Facebook Profile After You Die?

According to the BBC (presumably courtesy of Facebook), the answer seems to be quite simple:

  1. “If you die, a relative or friend can request for your Facebook profile to become memorialised. It essentially freezes the page in time. Whoever requests it will have to give Facebook some proof that you have died, such as a death certificate.”   Or . . .
  2. You can nominate a “legacy contact”. This is someone to look after your memorialised account. They can do things like write a pinned post, respond to new friend requests, and update the profile picture and cover photo. But they still can’t log in to your account – so they can’t delete anything.

Now, Google is somewhat different:

Google has now rolled out a technological solution, a euphemistically titled “Inactive Account Manager” tool (“Control what happens to your account when you stop using Google,” the company says, i.e. die). With the tool, you set an amount of time you want Google to wait before taking action (3, 6, 9 months, or a year). One month before that deadline, if Google hasn’t heard from you, it will send you an alert by either email or text message. If that month closes out and you still have not re-entered your account, Google will notify your “trusted contacts” — you can list up to 10 — and share your data with them if you have so chosen. 

For individuals owning websites, you can arrange to “transfer” ownership at the time of death or have multiple administrators and registers of the website domain.

Frankly, I consider these protective measures to be overkill (no pun intended) since people who scribbled their memoirs in notebooks and on the backs of envelopes were hardly afforded the same luxury.