What is going to happen to your Facebook profile after you die?

Facebook memorial casket
Your Facebook legacy

This is surely not one of the most top-of-mind topics for many people on Facebook; but, after I read yesterday’s Herald Tribune/NY Times article, entitled “Facebook and its users grapple with memorials and persistent ghosts,” I thought again and believe the topic needs airing.

This issue brings up several points.

  1. How should testaments (wills) be changed to accommodate your digital footprint?  i.e. what should happen to all your email correspondence, your blog posts, Facebook pages and more?
  2. To whom do you give access to all your username and passwords in case of an accident (foul play!?)
  3. What is your defining legacy?

The article discusses the point that Facebook’s handy automated reminders to reconnect with your “long lost” pals might also be an encouragement to try a seance with a dearly departed friend or relative.  That said, the people quoted in the article seemed to find solace and/or pleasure in revisiting the deceased person’s website, so it is not ALL bad.

Next week, Facebook is due to pass the 500 million mark of [live] users.  That would be just shy of 1/12 of the world’s population.  If there are 150,000 or so deaths per day in the world, one could extrapolate that the number of Facebook users dying every day is 1/12 of 150,000, or 12,500, except that the Facebook population is obviously not fully representative of the world’s population (not as many infants, poverty-stricken, octogenarians…).  Nonetheless, with the 65+ year old bracket adopting Facebook faster than any other age group, one knows that the problem is very real.  And, unfortunately, there are plenty of younger members who will pass away as well.  So it would not be a huge leap of faith to imagine that some 1,000 Facebook users are dying every day.

Points of action:

1/ If you know of someone with a Facebook profile who has passed away, there is a way to alert Facebook.  They obviously need to have some facts to verify the claim, so be prepared to send in some proof.  Here is the link to send in the information to Facebook.  You can also then decide to set up a memorial in your friend’s/relative’s honor.  To do this, you will need the deceased’s login information.

2/ Unify the username and passwords of the important sites you join or author in one “safe” place… knowing that we must still continue to alter passwords to keep them unassailable to unfriendly eyes.

3/ Consider the legacy you would like to leave for your life… It’s a good thing to think about in any event.  And, then consider how you wish your legacy to be expressed on line (“My life as a blog”? as opposed to the great Swedish film, “My Life as a Dog“)

4/ Alter your testament to include what you wish to happen to your emails and other publishable materials (in case they want to write your biography?).  Don’t forget to say where you kept the passwords!  (And, if you haven’t written a will, now is a good time to write one — the number of people who have not written a will is staggering — e.g. according to the Trust & Wills site, 60% of all Britons and half of those with children have not written one).

Your parting thoughts?

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