Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Are You Prepared For Social Media Death

by Anita Mae Draper

Are you prepared for your social media death? People don't like to talk about death of any kind, but in this case we are talking about the real death of a human being and the virtual life they leave behind.

This hit hard recently when we visited my husband's cousin on the day after her 76th birthday. She was in a nursing home due to health issues and I mentioned that I'd left a birthday greeting on her Facebook page the day before but wasn't sure if it was the right one since she had 2 profile pages. (Her son made the first one, and she'd made the 2nd when she couldn't find the first one.)

She responded that she hadn't looked at her Facebook page in quite a while, so I used my cell phone to show her the greetings from both pages. Her smile was heartwarming as she dwelled on each name.

As I put my phone away, however, she mentioned that it bothered her to see people posting annual greetings to her deceased sister's Facebook page and how she wouldn't like her own page(s) to remain up in the event of her own death.

I explained that the easiest solution was to give her husband or son the passwords to her social media accounts.

Two weeks later her husband phoned with the heart-wrenching news that she had passed away peacefully in her sleep. I was too distraught to ask whether she gave him the passwords. When I last checked, 2 weeks after she'd passed, both pages were still up although her son was using the one he'd set up for her to post information and thank people for their thoughtfulness.

My research led me to put the word, death, in the HELP search box on my Facebook profile page, which is shown by the question mark in a circle at the top of the page. The answer is that Facebook does allow for this situation. Here's the gist of it:

It goes into detail about the types of documentation required. Personally, I believe it's an act of love to simply hand over your passwords to a loved one, or at least leave them in an accessible location, and save them from additional grief.

Some reasons for not sharing your passwords with a loved one are you:
  • change your passwords often
  • don't like writing them down
  • worry about their security
These are all valid reasons and shouldn't be taken lightly, however, the question should not be whether you should share them with someone you trust, but rather whether you want your virtual life to carry on after your physical body shuts down.

What are your thoughts on this matter? And please, for your own security, don't say anything about your passwords, their location, or who knows them.

*Update - Comments contain excellent information on choices.


Anita Mae Draper's historical romances are woven under the western skies of the Saskatchewan prairie where her love of research and genealogy yields fascinating truths that layer her stories with rich historical details.  Anita's short story, Here We Come A-Wassailing, was a finalist for the Word Guild's 2015 Word Awards. Her novellas are included in Austen in Austin Volume 1, The American Heiress Brides Collection, and The Secret Admirer Romance Collection. Readers can check out Anita's Pinterest boards for a visual idea of her stories to enrich their reading experience.  Discover more at:
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  1. I have a few faces that come up on my fb friends list, and those people are no longer with us. It would be nice to see them no longer get friend requests, etc, but I haven't done any of this preparation myself.

    1. Actually Deb, I haven't either. Yes, I wrote the post to bring awareness, and then put it on my To Do list, but haven't made it a priority. I suppose that's another reason that should have gone on my list.

  2. I don't know about Twitter and Instagram and all the others, but Facebook has created a system for memorializing the account of a deceased person and designating legacy contacts. This way the account is changed to indicate that the person has passed away without someone actually logging in to their account. My daughter did this for my MIL last fall. It insures that birthday reminders and friend suggestions and so forth stop appearing, because that's traumatic.

    1. Thank you, Niki, for the explanation and the link. I'm wondering why this didn't show up in my search, but then I merely asked for info about death, and not a memorial.

      I really appreciate you coming forward with this info and pray it will soon be common knowledge - or perhaps it already is and I'm the last to know because I've been hiding in my cave again. :o

  3. Here's my experience. When my daughter passed away unexpectedly a few years ago, memorializing a Facebook page was a new option. It seemed like the right thing to do, so I sent the necessary information, and within a few days it was done. Now her profile says, "Remembering Jeanette..." Her account is locked until I (as the official contact person who memorialized it) asks for it to be deleted. I don't if or when I will delete it. But here's the issue. Her account is now locked and I can't change anything. For example, I wish I could change her profile picture, but I can't. Memorializing a page is permanent. There's no way to undo it. Another option, which was not available at the time of my daughter's death, is for a Facebook user to establish a Legacy contact. The designated legacy contact is the only person who can access to the account after a person's death. But, of course, my daughter would have had to arrange a legacy contact in advance, and as I said, her death was unexpected. So, setting up a legacy contact would not have been even a thought in our minds. A better option is just as you suggested. Allow a trusted person to have your password. I have to say, memorializing an account is a good idea, but I would have waited awhile longer. I was still in deep grief in the early days after she died, and I wasn't thinking and didn't realize I'd be locked out of her account once I memorialized it. I'm telling about my experience just so people know and can make the best decision in a difficult time.

    1. Sara, I'm so very sorry for your loss. Your reason for wishing you had not memorialized your daughter's page is valid and balances out Niki's answer above. So it would seem that even in this case there are choices that will affect the loved ones we leave behind.

      At least there are choices, however, and from your words it seems that if a person has lost a loved one, the first thing is to wait while you work through the grieving process.

      And then gather the choices which may have changed between the actual death and the time you're ready to decide.

      Excellent information, Sara. I truly appreciate you coming forward to share your experience with us.

  4. I hadn't even considered what might happen to my social accounts when I pass on. But I'm not much of a social media person, so there's not all that much. But I think it would be wise to leave instructions/passwords/etc. in with my will and powers of attorney.

    Thank you, Anita. This is a timely subject.

    1. Thanks for admitting you haven't thought of it, DeAnna, because that means I've accomplished something with this post.

      Good point about having a will and power of attorney as this is definitely something to include in that package.

  5. What an important post, Anita. Thank you. I haven't done anything to prepare for this inevitable future, but I need to!

    1. You're very welcome, Susie. Thanks for letting me know.

      BTW - I've been thinking of you recently due to the fire situation in California. Prayers going out for all the people affected by the fires on both sides of the border.

  6. Interesting topic. I've wondered about that.

    1. Thanks, Dina. I hope we've given you enough to follow up then.


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