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.

Twitter Democracy and the Starbucks Experience

I was reflecting recently on the political upheaval in Egypt and how Twitter and Facebook seem to be organizing tools of preference for Egyptian citizens seeking greater political, social and economic freedoms. While one certainly is moved by events in Egypt, I am skeptical that Twitter is the ultimate “democracy tool” that many in our pop-culture media seem so joyous to promote.

In fairness, how many people can afford a smart phone in Egypt with average wages of $2 a day? Also, while I would love to believe that people are tweeting about such as topics as “democracy,” “individual rights,” “torture,” “education,” or “job creation,” Twitter trends suggest something radically different. Found below are the top ten Twitter trends for February 7th, 2011:

1. #superbowl (promoted)

2. #idontunderstandwhy (new)

3. #aristegui (new)

4. Gary Moore (new)

5. FEMME FATALE (unchanged)

6. Green & Yellow (unchanged)

7. MVS (new)

8. Puppy Bowl (new)

9. Robert Kubica (new)

10. National Anthem (new)

While these are important topics for many Americans, it is unlikely that politicans in DC or big business will alter the way they conduct business or discuss Afghanistan or the budget deficit in a civil manner. I mean, what politician is going to fault Christina Aguilera for not getting the words to the National Anthem correct at the Super Bowl? Fergie (whoever that is) certainly isn’t. To paraphrase a tongue-in-cheek British organizational manual, “think small and the big things will take care of themselves.” Let’s face it, Twitter is more about entertainment than education or communication, so I wish the talking-heads in the media would stop pretending that tweets reflect the will of the people.  On second thought, maybe tweets really do.   That’s certainly a disturbing thought.   

When I think back to the passionate discussions of “life,” “love,” “peace,” and “war” during the Viet Nam era, I can’t help but be reminded that these discussions often took place in bars and cafes that somewhat resembled the scene in ABC Cafe in Les Miserables. In ABC Cafe, students were gathering to man the barricades in Paris in a call to social action while the lovelorn Marius was articulating his love for Closette (Red and Black). In contrast to Les Miserables, see the young woman below describe the benefits of WiFi at Starbucks:

Starbucks WiFi en Yahoo! Video

I would like to think that those in Starbucks sipping their lattes and logged in to their social media accounts are engaged in worthwhile communication. However, I suspect downloading a popular tune or tweeting about your impressions of  Superbowl Ads are perhaps more important than talking to your neighbor at the next table. When the world is seen through the optics of social media, it is a pretty dreary place indeed.

This article is republished with slight revisions, from an article I recently published on the Stationers Guild.   This is a “food for thought” article rather than a “food article.”   Sorry, but even digital writers sometimes must indulge themselves in nostalgia. 

Richard W. May
Stationers Guild