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