What happens to all of your social media accounts when you die? Morbid, sure- but it’s a question worth asking..
Over 30 million Facebook users have died since its inception over 8 years ago. That’s a staggering number. But what happens to all of those profiles and accounts? The answers may surprise you. The truth is that it depends: on what platform you are using, on your previously selected preferences, you family’s wishes, etc.
At some point in the next 100 years, the dead will outnumber the living on Facebook. If Facebook stops growing, the amount of deceased profiles will surpass those of the living in 2065. If Facebook continues to grow, this will happen around 2130. Crazy.
Each social platform has different requirements for dealing with the dead. Twitter, for instance, will delete you account after six months of inactivity, regardless of if you are dead or not. Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc.on the other hand will not, and require a surprising amount of documentation to delete or change your profile. For instance, in order to get your Facebook account taken down, someone must provide your death certificate and prove their relationship to you. Facebook also has the option to transform your account into a memorial page, where your friends and family can still view pictures, write on your page, etc. BUT, it will not prompt people that it is your birthday, include you in the “people you may know” section, etc.
So why does this matter? With an increasing number of social media users worldwide, this has already proven to be a growing problem for the industry. The issue is two fold- first of all, how does your platform know that you died? While several services have identified patterns for determining this, others have not. Secondly, how do these platforms go about removing your information from the data that they sell to marketers? Its a surprisingly difficult problem that these different platforms are being forced to figure out.
Another interesting factor is about your data. Who owns all of your data when you die? The answer for the most part is that you do, but there is still a “digital footprint” from your life on social. Many of these social networks have exceptions in their policies that allow them to share your information in certain circumstances.
Nobody wants to think about how death affects social media, but unfortunately it is now reality. Social media platforms must walk a fine line in death that requires a delicate balance of respect and cold business decisions.
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Food for thought:
How do you think social media should handle death?
What would you want to happen to all of your profiles and accounts?
What should these platforms do with all of your data?