Social Media after Death!

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Social Media after death

I spotted a post that a friend of mine had pushed out on Facebook of her and her husband on holidays somewhere.

I hadn’t seen her for years so I innocently posted “I hope the two love birds are doing great – must get together one of these days“.

Another mutual friend sent me a ‘panic‘ message “Delete the post, her husband died last year and she was just posting a memory as it is a year since his death“.

Oh no ….. how did I not know this awful news?

I sent my friend a private message on Facebook apologising for my colossal gaffe and offered my sincere condolences – thankfully she came back to me, was totally understanding and we actually ended up chatting on the phone.

It turns out she was happy to chat about her husband and in a strange way she was glad that someone behaved as if he was still alive..

The Last Will and Testament

I’ve been asked to go on air to chat about a newspaper article that discusses the trend of people leaving very specific instructions in their wills about keeping their social media accounts “alive” once they leave this life (or do they?).

The article claims that according to lawyers one in five people are now leaving specific social media instructions in their wills – I guess if you factor in that not all people in that supposedly older demographic have participated in social media, then it would suggest that most avid users see it as being really important.

People are nominating a social media ‘guardian’ in their wills who have the job of executing their instructions, which according to the survey are quite varied:

  • some are going as far as specifying how often their account should be updated and the type of content they want posted
  • some are requesting that a post goes from their account every single day!
  • some wish that once or twice a year some memories are posted for the person to keep their memory alive
  • the majority just wish for their guardian to reply to comments

More than half of social media users want their Facebook account maintained, which shows us that no one wishes to face the idea of someone hitting that “delete” button.

What is all of this interesting research telling us about social media and about life?

The first big observation is that it tells us that social media users while they can’t stay alive forever they do wish that their ‘digital footprints‘ stay alive…Greg is still here with us!

It also shows us that our social media presence has become our modern day ‘scrap book‘ conveniently collecting the memories that we choose to capture in our lives and this is much too precious to just ‘delete’.

These memories are a precious collection of that person’s life not only for them to enjoy but also their loved ones – maybe we should do a survey asking people if they would like if the social media accounts of their loved ones who have passed away are preserved?

When you look at the very different social media platforms it does put Facebook and possibly Instagram at the top of the charts for collecting ‘memories’ from your life.

Do people who survive me really want to see my rants on Twitter about Donald Trump or Irish Water preserved for eternity? – then again all of this is part of who I am (or was!).

My last observation about this whole cheery topic is that the social media platforms need specific ways of dealing with accounts of users who have passed away.

For example on both Facebook and LinkedIn recently I have seen the platforms suggesting that I might like to ‘be friends’ or ‘connect’ with someone that I know is dead – the last thing that you would want to happen is getting a message from the social media guardian “I’m really sorry, Greg has passed away”. That would be more than awkward.

Facebook do have a process whereby the account of the person who has died is classified as ‘Memorialised‘. It is up to the loved ones to contact Facebook and invoke this process.

This means that friends and family can leave messages and memories abut that person – the word ‘Remembering’ appears before their name on that account – these accounts will not appear in public places such as ‘people you may know’ or ‘birthday reminders’.

I’m guessing that some of those who have been researched about their wills may not want their accounts classified like this?

For me I do believe that the people we love never ever leave us and I would want all of their memories to stay alive so yes, appoint that social media guardian and never delete their accounts.

As for posting on a regular basis – maybe leave that one to the people who are left behind but …everyone to their own!

I feel the sudden urge to take a photo of something nice and post “It’s great to be alive“!

Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion

Fuzion offer Social Media Consultancy and Training from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

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2 Responses to “Social Media after Death!”

  1. Megan Cronin Says:

    Really enjoyed that post. Not to sure about having an active Facebook after death but like the idea keeping the page ‘alive’. Alternatively family members could request the deceased person’s archive which contains their entire Facebook life to keep hold on photos!

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