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.

Nothing Wrong with Being an “Empty Suit”

empty_suits

People were  prone to accuse me of being an empty suit, but I have long ago donated my suits to charity. While I wore my suits with pride – particularly after they had been sent out for dry cleaning – in all honesty, there was not much going on between the lapels when I was younger.  Let’s just say “empty suits” have no heart!

Lest you think I am making some sort of boring political statement, I am not! In fact, I am here to provide some very practical advice on how to erase your digital footprint. It used to be that your carbon footprint was important, but Edward Snowden has dramatically pointed out that your digital persona is far important to the suits that run our government.

Found below and printed verbatim is some useful advice to help erase your digital footprint from Gizmodo:

If your growing weariness of being constantly tethered to the internet has become overwhelming, it might be time to scrub yourself from the social media sphere altogether. Here’s how you can become a ghost on the Internet, by tracking down and eliminating your digital past.

The Big Four

Before you go hunting down your old MySpace and Yahoo Fantasy Sports accounts, you should probably go ahead and nix your existence from the four largest social media sites on the planet—Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn—seeing as how they have the greatest reach and the most information on you. Luckily, each service makes the self-destruct process fairly straightforward.

Facebook

Facebook makes it very obvious how to deactivate your account; it’s under Account Settings > Security > Deactivate your account. Don’t be fooled! Deactivation isn’t deletion, and when you chose this option, Facebook holds on to all your bits and pieces juuuuussssssst in case you change your mind.

To truly nuke your account, you need to head to the Delete My Account page and click the big blue button. That’s it, you’re officially off Facebook. The process might take up to a fortnight to complete since the system has to scan the entirety of itself making sure all data related to you—every tagged picture, like, and mention—but when it’s gone, it’s all gone. The process is irreversible.

Don’t worry, though; if you still want that treasure trove of pictures and updates living on your hard drive, you can download the whole shebang by going to Account Settings > General > Download a copy of your Facebook Data > Start My Archive.

Twitter

Unlike on Facebook, on Twitter deactivate means delete. And it’s easy! Go to Account Settings > Deactivate my account > Okay, fine, deactivate account. Then just enter your password and you’re good to go.

Well, almost, anyway. Twitter also holds onto your info in case you have quitter’s remorse, so it’ll still stick around on the company’s servers for 30 days. After that, though, you’re all clear for a RTless life.

LinkedIn

Another easy one. Head to the upper right hand corner of the page, and select Privacy & Settings from the drop-down menu. From there, head to Account > Close Your Account. Answer a quick question about why you’re leaving (as if you need a reason!), verify your account one more time, and then revel in the fact that you’ll never get LinkedIn spam again.

It’ll take a while for all professional network traces of you to leave Google and other search engines, but you’ll be purged before long.

Google+

There’s a decent chance you’re a Google+ member without even realizing it—which makes leaving all the more compelling. It’s also the most convoluted process of the four.

The important thing here is to delete your Google+ information and account without nuking your Google account (assuming you’re a Gmail and Gcal user).

To get rid of just your public information, first sign into Google+ if you somehow aren’t already. Click your name and/or email address in the upper right hand corner, and go to Account Management > Delete profile and remove related Google+ features > Delete Google+ content. That’ll take care of profile, your Circles, your +1s, etc.

To get rid of your entire Google+ account, meanwhile, repeat the above process, but select Delete your entire Google profile. This sounds scary! It’s not. You’ll still be able to use Gmail, your Google Drive, and so on. It will, however, totally vanish your Google+ presence, and will make for some annoyances if you’ve coupled it with other Google accounts (most commonly YouTube).

If you really want to go all the way with this and delete the entirety of your Google account (mail, calendar, etc). To do that, go to to your Google Account homepage, click Close account and delete all services and info associated with it, and kiss Gmail and every other Google-thing you love goodbye.

Cleaning Up the Scraps

Once you’ve taken care of the four elephants in the room, it’s time to go after your smaller and older accounts. But unless you’ve been keeping meticulous notes on every single forum board and half-baked social site you’ve ever joined, you’re going to need to spend a fair amount of time tracking them all down.

Luckily, there are tools for that.

Just Delete Me offers a similar service, as well as a handy Chrome Extension that will light up whenever you’re on a site that JDM recognizes and will link you directly to the site’s account deletion page.

Knowem, meanwhile, finds sites that you may have forgotten about entirely by doing a username search on more that 500 popular social sites.

Now if you want to get really thorough and start eliminating traces of yourself from further corners of the Internet, check out our helpful guide on removing your personal information from background check websites. That’s for extreme cases only, though—and it requires some extreme solutions. In the meantime, enjoy being an internet ghost, and remember, you’ve still got some time to reactivate that Twitter account.

[LifeHacker – Hongkiat – Images: ArtFamily – Amy Walters]

Thanks for this useful article.

Talk to the Animals: Can you really eat your best friend?

As some of you may know, I am now writing The Incomplete and Apocryphal Stories of Talking Squirrel which entertained Abigail and Miranda when they were growing up in London.  Printing may be delayed because I am in heavy duty contract negotiations with two of three protagonists on licensing rights (not the Squirrel, who has retired).  

Now when I was growing up, talking to the animals was a big deal unless you were Rex Harrison, who seemed more comfortable chatting with animals than people in his quaint little village in the Cotswolds.   I feel the same way, but talking to animals is frowned upon in Greenwich.  

Unfortunately, talking to the animals is no big deal these days with the new Google App for the Droid.

How fortunate we are to being living at such a time. Wouldn’t it be great if Google could come up with an App that could explain what politicians are saying.

I would like to thank Abigail “Drama Queen” for giving me a head’s up on this breaking new technology.   I wonder if this makes my story obsolete.