Tweets From Beyond the Grave
A few weeks ago, a meme of Richard Rose began circulating on social media. According to the meme, Richard thought Covid-19 was a hoax and refused to wear a mask. After his initial post, he contracted Covid-19 and passed away. I immediately clicked around to see if I can verify the validity of the post. My internet sleuthing took me to his Facebook page to view the post with my own eyes. And, to my surprise, the meme was true. This blog isn't about whether you should wear a mask or not (you should) or whether Covid-19 is a public health crisis (it is). Instead, it's about what happens to your social media account when you pass away. And the steps you should take to make sure your accounts are disposed of as you wish.
When I visited Richard Rose's Facebook page, there were a ton of negative comments. I imagine that it must have been painful for his friends and family to read the jokes, crude remarks, and vile comments. Here's one comment from a friend: "Wow! I'm sorry to the whole family who has to read all this. I wasn't going to read these, all these terrible things about my friend. I never even thought of spending my little free time belittling a dead stranger on social media. This guy contributed probably more to society in his short life than most of these people who spend days trolling posts. What a waste of such a valuable thing....time. The worst part is, he spent a chunk of his life to be of service to his country.... You know, the same country you have these freedoms of your gross opinions. I promised myself I wouldn't cry because of what I read rick and I won't. I miss you. This is all I'll say on this post and I will keep remembering you for who you really are."
We all know people can be cruel. I wondered why his family and friends hadn't made his account private and turned off comments. What was taking so long? Why were strangers allowed to make comments on his page? And, then I remembered the lengthy, time-consuming processes to de-active or memorialize social media accounts.
Although this is an extreme case, you must take appropriate steps to ensure your accounts are appropriately taken care of when you pass away. As of today, the account has been memorialized, and commenting has been turned off. But, not before thousands of strangers mocked him. And, you can still react to a post. And, it's still public. It's not even private.
I've seen this happen many times on LinkedIn, Facebook and other platforms. Your loved one passes away, and next year, someone wishes them a Happy Work Anniversary on LinkedIn or tags them in a random Facebook post.
Here's one easy way to solve for this:
Grab a pen and paper (very low tech) and write down the passwords to your social media account and give them to someone you trust. You can even add it is an addendum to your will and leave it with your attorney.
While most sites have a process for de-activating accounts, it takes at a minimum a death certificate to start the process. That may be why it took weeks before Mr. Rose's Facebook was memorialized and commenting turned off. It is so much easier when your family can log into your account and de-activate the account, turn off comments or make your profile private.
If you need to de-activate social media accounts for a loved one, here are the current processes for the top social media sites.
LinkedIn has the most straightforward process. A family member or colleague can request to de-activate an account. LinkedIn simply requires a link to an obituary. Usually, the death certificate is not required.
Good luck with getting help from Twitter. No, seriously. I mean, good luck trying to get a human. If you don't have the password, you might be out of luck.
Last year, Twitter announced it would de-activate any accounts that hadn't logged in and tweeted during the previous 6 months. One user said, he doesn't have his late father's password and would lose all of his quirky tweets. See, without a password and possibly the device linked to the account, it is nearly impossible to get into a Twitter account.
For others, it wasn't possible to log on and tweet again. Drew Olanoff wrote in TechCrunch that he doesn't have his late father's password and thus cannot preserve his "quirky, nerdy tweets."
Twitter requires a copy of the death certificate as well as your license to de-activate an account. And, based on previous experience, it may take a while even with the correct documentation.
Facebook provides two options: memorialize the account or delete the account. I'd rather decide how I'd like my accounts maintained instead of having my family do it. But, I'm a control freak.
If your account is memorialized, people may still be able to tag you, but you will no longer have ads served to your account. Again, Facebook will want proof of your relationship as well as a copy of the death certificate.
Memorialized accounts are a place for friends and family to gather and share memories after a person has passed away. Memorialized accounts have the following key features:
The word Remembering will be shown next to the person's name on their profile
Depending on the privacy settings of the account, friends can share memories on the memorialized Timeline
Content the person shared (ex: photos, posts) stays on Facebook and is visible to the audience it was shared with
Memorialized profiles don't appear in public spaces such as in suggestions for People You May Know, ads or birthday reminders
No one can log into a memorialized account
Memorialized accounts that don't have a legacy contact can't be changed
Pages with a sole admin whose account was memorialized will be removed from Facebook if we receive a valid request
Facebook provides you with the ability to create a "legacy" contact to manage your page when you pass away. Go to Settings – General Settings and select the option for what happens when you pass away.
Here's a screenshot from my Facebook account where I've named my sister as my Legacy Contact. Although, I think I want to change the option to delete upon my death.
Instagram follows a similar request and requires the birth certificate as well as the death certificate.
Even though the same company owns them, it is an entirely different process for Instagram and Facebook.
Pinterest simply says get in touch with them to delete the account.
There's no transparency in the process as to what documents are required.
Snapchat will delete the account upon request and a birth certificate.
Questions for you to consider?
What do I want to happen to my social media accounts when I pass away?
Who do I trust to carry out my wishes?
Who will I list (if needed) as my legacy contact on Facebook?
Are all of your social media sites listed in one place?
Where are your passwords stored?
Does your will contemplate what to do with your social media accounts?
Do you want pre-scheduled content going out after your death?
Is my spouse or significant other social media savvy?
Do I want to add managing my social media presence site by site to the long list of responsibilities for my executor?
Have I talked to my loved ones about how their social media accounts (kids, spouse, parents, etc.)?
You can make the process a bit smoother for your family and friends. And, control your online legacy with a bit of planning. At the least, have a conversation with your loved ones about your online legacy.