Social media is an everyday part of our lives and our virtual world features just about everything that happens to us. We post our daily happenings, tweet our thoughts and snap our pictures. For many of us, it's our connection to the world. And since it's an everyday part of our lives, we need to be asking about what happens to our social media accounts when we die.
It's a smart idea to plan ahead for how you want to handle these accounts in the event of your death. Each service has its own standards, so you'll want to know how each is handled. If you don't create a plan for your social media platforms, what happens to your accounts is up to your family, and it's not always that easy.
Facebook has the most options to address deceased users. With Facebook, you can choose ahead of time to have your account memorialize you or be permanently deleted in the event of your death. When your account is memorialized, it becomes a space where your friends can remember you and pay tribute to you postmortem. Your friends will be able to see your posts and pictures, but your account will be removed from birthday reminders and other public spaces and no changes will be accepted. Facebook also allows you to designate a legacy contact, someone who will look after your account after you're gone.
Instagram is set up in a similar manner to Facebook, where your page can become a memorial, but the main difference is, it doesn't allow you to specify your choice ahead of time. At the time of your death, your family members are able to make the request to either have the page memorialize you or be deleted, but they need to contact the service with proof of the death. Accounts can't be changed with posts or likes, but other users can still see pictures and posts from the deceased.
Twitter has yet to establish pre-death planning, but your family members can contact Twitter to request that your account be deleted. They'll need to provide your user ID and full name, and proof of the death.
LinkedIn & Snapchat
According to the Digital Beyond, LinkedIn and Snapchat don't have formal policies in place for when a user dies. They will, however, delete an account at the request of family members or other users when provided with proof of the death or other certain information.
If you want a say in what happens to your social media accounts after you die, you need to make those decisions sooner rather than later. Many states recognize your digital accounts as part of your estate, but each service operates with their own set of rules which may further complicate things.
Creating a legacy contact and indicating your preferences on Facebook will eliminate some confusion, but with so many services not allowing that as an option, it's important to leave this information for your family. At the very least, create and leave a file with your User IDs and passwords with a trusted family member.