Have you ever learned about an old friend’s passing from Facebook or other social media?

Nowadays it can be all too common to look up an old college or childhood friend only to see they’ve died, their page now adorned with messages of love and fond memories. In many cases, the only connection left between them and you in life was through Facebook or other social media and that is the only connection that will remain once you’re gone.

Many people probably know you now only through your social media and, for them, that will likely be their only connection to you in the future. Even those close to you in the physical world might very well visit your Facebook page to see old photos, chats, and memories.

This begets an important question: What will happen to our social media when we’re gone?

The various social media sites provide a considerable variety of mechanisms to control the disposition of your account when you’re no longer around. If you don’t take advantage of these options, the decisions will be made for you, either by a family member or by the default policies of the site itself. It’s a good idea to make sure your wishes are known so that what happens to your social media ends up being your decision.

Because Facebook is, at present, the dominant social media site we’ll just talk about Facebook options in this post. We’ll address some of the other social media sites in a later post.

Facebook has taken this issue seriously (and with one seventh of the world’s population signing on every month, it’s something they’re going to encounter every single day), and the company allows users to plan what happens to their account long before they’re gone. You have three possible options with Facebook:

  1. You can just leave your page as it is. This what happens to most accounts when their people die. The page will continue to exist as it is, you just won’t be making any further posts.
  2. You can have your account deleted. This could be a good option for you if you’re afraid that the continued life of your Facebook beyond your own life might cause friends or family distress.
  3. You can have your account memorialized. This is what will happen to your account if Facebook learns that you have passed away.

When an account has been memorialized, a few things change for that person’s page. First, the word ‘Remembering’ will be shown next to the person’s name. Secondly, although no one will be allowed to sign on to the account, friends can still share memories on the timeline. And, finally, you will no longer appear in public spaces which means that you won’t show up in People You May Know or in advertisements and there will be no more reminders of your birthday.

In most other ways, a memorialized account remains the same as it was. Shared content will remain visible to the friends with whom you originally shared it.

You’re probably wondering how Facebook will know if you’ve passed. You’ll be pleased to know that Facebook has (kind of) provided for this. You can designate a ‘legacy contact’, one of your Facebook friends, to administer the account in the event of your passing. This legacy contact will be able to write a pinned post as a final message, update your picture and profile, and respond to unanswered friend requests. They will not, however, be able to log into your account, change anything you’ve shared, read your messages, or remove friends.

It would be a good idea to make sure that your legacy contact knows how to alert Facebook of your passing. Here’s the page they will need to do that: https://www.facebook.com/help/contact/234739086860192

To make sure your legacy contact remembers all this, you might want to set up an AfterVault at AfterVault.com. More about that later.

If you’d like to set up your legacy contact, here’s how you do that.

Click the privacy shortcuts dropdown in upper right of your Facebook home page and select settings. Then pick security from the left panel:

Then select ‘Legacy Contact’ from the list:

Facebook will show you a screen that lets you set up a legacy contact, including an option to send them a message now if you want to be sure they are up for the responsibility.

Now the question remains: Will your legacy contact know what you want done with your account? Maybe you told them. Will they remember what you said?

Hm…don’t you wish there was a good way to write those directions down for them to be sure they do exactly what it is you’d like with your social media?

Well there is. It’s called AfterVault.

We will make sure that your family gets the information they need!