By Erin Ellison May 11, 2022
Summary: Like so many other parts of honoring the wishes of family members (or yourself), it’s better for everyone when what they (or you) want is clearly outlined or expressed before death. So let’s take a look at how to Swedish death clean your social media now, and what happens on the platforms when you die.
It’s not something you’re probably thinking about all that often, but it’s worth asking what happens to your social media accounts when you or a loved one dies. Perhaps it feels a bit morbid to consider, but the truth is, they don’t just fade away. And, like other post-life planning, it’s a good idea to think about how you’d like to have it handled long before you (or your loved ones) need to worry about it.
You’ve probably heard of Swedish death cleaning in some context by now — or at least understand the concept of tidying up your life before you die so your loved ones don’t have to. Save them the stress of having to toss out everything from your old yearbooks, prom photos, and report cards to china, flatware, and stemware. Instead, honor the memory and your family’s future by doing some of it now yourself.
It’s sad to think about, but apparently just like they said: nobody wants our old stuff like we do. While it’s likely there isn’t a ticking clock on clearing things off your digital footprint like there is on a house with a mortgage to pay, you still may want to make the decisions about what gets preserved and what gets tossed on your social media platforms.
Don’t we all have a friend we’ve joked with at least once to go in and delete everything once we’re dead? But, for many of us, our timelines on these platforms is stretching into a decade or decade and a half — would you want your friends and family to lose those memories when you’re gone? Probably not.
So, take an hour here and there this month to look at old photos on your platforms. Are there any you want to download to be framed? Preserve and protect those memories to enjoy them. Are there any pictures on there you wish were never taken? Exes and rush parties come to mind. You are fully within your rights to delete them or remove yourself from being tagged in them.
It might also be worth digging back through your tweets to see if there’s anything on there that would embarrass your family if you’re no longer around to explain it. Who hasn’t gone on a verbal rant now and then over something, but tweets live forever (unlike us) — unless your account gets deleted.
So, let’s look at how that works.
What happens on Facebook when someone dies? Turns out, there are options on many of the most popular platforms. Like so many other parts of honoring the wishes of family members (or yourself), it’s better for everyone when what they (or you) want is clearly outlined or expressed before death.
Take time now to think about how you want your online legacy preserved. Do you prefer that your photos remain accessible to your friends and family after you’re gone? Are they part of precious memories with loved ones that you’ll want to have remembered or honored? And how can you protect your personal data after you’re gone so scammers can’t steal it from your account?
Facebook offers a few paths forward for users who want to manage their digital legacy after death. First, do nothing and just let things coast once you’re gone. Maybe not the most secure option because data can be stolen this way like your date or birth, place of birth, and password clues.
If you want to designate someone to take over, simply navigate to Settings on your Facebook account, then click Memorialization Settings. Here, you can designate a family member or friend to be your legacy contact. The person you choose will get an email letting them know they’ve been added, so it’s not a bad idea to make sure they’re open to the responsibility.
While it’s likely there isn’t a ticking clock on clearing things off your digital footprint like there is on a house with a mortgage to pay, you still may want to make the decisions about what gets preserved and what gets tossed on your social media platforms.
Once you’ve shuffled off this mortal coil, they’ll be able to post to your profile — think things like funeral service details or a memorial message. They can also respond to friend requests, update photos, and decide who can post there or tag you in a post. They won’t, however, be able to close or temporarily disable your Facebook account, read your messages, or log in as you. That is, unless you’ve got your login saved in a password manager, and they have access to your computer right after you die.
The other option you have is to have Facebook simply delete your account after they are notified of your death.
Instagram, owned by Facebook, offers the option to delete your account or memorialize it. Either way, it starts with a request to Instagram and proof of death. They do not offer a legacy contact as of this writing.
While deleted accounts are removed, some friends and families might like to revisit the account to share memories of you. In this case, memorialization offers a place to remember someone’s life after they’ve passed away. The word “remembering” will be added to the profile next to the account holder’s name. Posts will stay on the platform and be visible to their audience. But, nobody can log into the account or make any changes to the existing posts or information.
When it comes to the micro-blogging platform, the only real option is account deactivation. This requires someone representing your estate to contact Twitter to request deactivation after death.
Members can reach out to LinkedIn to request that the profile of a dead colleague, classmate, or family member be removed. To do this, you’ll need to clarify your relationship to the deceased, and supply some information like the date of death, a link to an obituary, and some details about their employment (like where they worked last).
On a side note, Google will also work with family members to help remove accounts if you pass away. They’ll also require some kind of proof of death (although word is they’ll take a memorial announcement or an obituary as well as a death certificate).
While it might be a bit of a downer to think about how our social media legacy lives on after we or our loved ones do, it’s not a bad idea to consider this as part of any other life planning process. How do you want these memories preserved, and who will you ask to take charge of them once you’re gone?
Planning ahead has never been so important, and we can help. If you’re looking for stronger cyber safety, check out EarthLink Protect+, powered by Norton. Or, if you’re just ready to take a break, we’ve got the guide on how to temporarily disable your social media accounts. And if what you really need is a better home internet connection so you can upload photos to share with others — well, EarthLink has you covered.
Erin Ellison is the Director of Content & SEO for EarthLink. She has more than 15 years of writing experience for businesses, agencies, and the media. Her superpower is translating complicated tech jargon into language we can all understand. She currently lives and works in Atlanta. Connect with Erin on LinkedIn.
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