To be sure, social media has become an integral part of many people’s lives. For some, it is a chronicle of their most happy and even most difficult moments. For others, it is a lifeline to the outside world. But what happens when we’ve made our last post?
The concept of how to handle social media accounts of the dearly departed is certainly not a new one. But as more services become available, and as our physical lives become ever more intertwined with our digital ones, what used to be a passing anecdote has now become a reality that every social media user should consider.
It’s true that there currently exists options to convert accounts into memorial pages. These are limited in their effectiveness, however, and the process is sometimes difficult.
Facebook, for instance, allows users to designate people to act as their ‘virtual benefactors,’ who are able to delete posts and pictures, manage an ongoing memorial page, and even disable the account entirely, if they so choose. The platform also allows friends of the deceased to inform the company of their recent loss. Once confirmed, the page can be transformed into a makeshift online memorial.
LinkedIn, on the other hand, makes the process quite difficult, requiring a death certificate and obituary. I discovered this when a recent co-worker passed away. Of course, there was no way I could obtain a death certificate, and to this day I still get ‘reminders’ of his work anniversary and the like. Not only is this very disturbing, it demonstrates a clear lack of tact on the part of LinkedIn.
Clean the Slate
Many news and entertainment websites today feature social media plug-ins, so that users are able to “like” and comment on stories, photos, and other items using their Facebook and Twitter accounts. When the account is disabled (or privacy settings are tightened), the user-generated content (UGC) on these sites will automatically disappear.
But what about material that is posted by other means? Comments posted to blogs and other online outlets that are not linked to the user’s social media accounts have the potential to live online forever. Each person will have to decide for themselves whether that even matters.
End of the Line
For now, much of the post-mortem management of the online property of an expired loved one remains with their friends and family. As the “social media generation” ages and eventually dies off, however, there may be other options presented to handle this sometimes uncomfortable situation.
by Enid Ahylhienatta
Residential Life Magazine