COM0011 Blog Post 1: Our Digital Remains of the Day: What happens to our Social Media when we die?

Since the birth of Facebook, and other social media platforms like Linkedin and Pinterest that so many of us (at least 14 million Canadians) use on a daily basis, our modern lives have become a true blend of our online selves and our ‘real-life’ selves.

We post our thoughts, our photos, our insights, and other musings on social media. We connect with friends and family, sharing such life events as marriage, separations, new employment, births, a house move… But what happens when a ‘death event’ occurs? I mean, I hate to sound morbid, but what happens to all this good stuff – our digital remains so to speak – when we die? Not a fun subject to think about, but one that needs a good mulling over, especially as we become more and more invested in our online life.

We will our houses and possessions, and the occasional turtle, to our loved ones. We give great consideration to determine who would truly value the hand-sewn quilt from great-grandma or the extensive stamp collection passed on from Uncle Joe. Now we have to decide which trusted relative or friend gets our passwords, usernames… essentially the remnants of our online self.

Our Facebook profile could become a site where our loved ones can post their memories of us. But who determines this and who oversees the site to ensure that it remains a place or respectful tribute? How does access to Facebook and other social media sites work after death?

It turns out that each site has its own way of dealing with the death of its users. Here’s a great infographic to show each company’s approach to your digital remains.

digital demise

In my opinion, companies have a responsibility to make it very clear to users going forward what will happen to our information when we die, which in turn will make it easier for us to factor in this new layer of estate planning. And we also have a responsibility to be clear about not only who inherits the quilts and tea sets, but also access to our rich digital profiles.

What would you like to see happen to your digital remains after death? Do you have a plan?

Sources:

Social Media Infographic: Lifehacker via Mashable (2014)

Globe and Mail (February 2014)

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