What Happens to Your Facebook After You Are Gone?

Increasingly as we all become more and more active in digital spaces, including social media, blogs and other online communities, one question that online users ask is “what will happen to my account after I am dead?”  A morbid thought and probably one we don’t really consider, but here is why everyone should take a moment to think about their digital collateral, and how to manage it responsibly, by planning for unforeseen events.

Have you lost someone you love and care about?  One of the most upsetting things for families and friends is to see a constant reminder on Facebook about an individual that is no longer with them.  Because of the recycled content algorithm, memories, posts, comments and other activities that your loved one participated in on Facebook, can resurface for years after the account has become dormant. And while we enjoy the flash back memories and other aspects of recycled and promoted content by Facebook, it can be extremely upsetting when this content surfaces from a lost family member or friend.  However, without passwords and other identification credentials, it can be very difficult and time consuming to legally gain access to someone’s Facebook account.   Many times, families have no choice but to leave the account open, but you can set up your Facebook Legacy to prevent that from happening. 

Introducing the Facebook Legacy Option

We also know that handing out passwords is counter intuitive.  How can we safely provide and store passwords for family and friends, when we are required for security purposes to change them frequently?  Understanding that there was a gap in a family’s ability to manage an account posthumously, Facebook has introduced a feature called “Facebook Legacy”.

This new feature allows you to set a trusted family member as your legacy representative.  This individual can acquire access to your Facebook account without a password, after being assigned a “Legacy” on your account.   In the event of a personal injury or health crisis, the individual can post on your account on your behalf.  In the event of the death of the account owner, the Legacy can advise family and friends on Facebook, and opt to archive the Facebook account, or keep it live.

Facebook allows a Legacy individual the ability to download all the information (posts, pictures, comments etc.) should they wish to save a digital version of the information.  The Legacy can then decide whether to delete and close the account.   This is a compassionate way to ensure that after death, your Facebook account will be updated and managed per your wishes, rather than remaining active, and potentially upsetting surviving family and friends with recycled content.

How to Set Your Facebook Legacy

  • Start by clicking the GLOBE image at the top right corner of your Facebook bar. Click ‘Settings’.
  • Click on the gold BADGE icon labeled ‘Security’.
  • On the right, select ‘Legacy Contact’ and click the ‘Edit’ button.
  • Search for the friend or family member you wish to assign as your Legacy Contact. Check the box that enables that individual to download and archive your Facebook posts and content (if you wish that person to be able to retain it for family, and then delete your account after death).

You can also direct Facebook to automatically delete your account, without assigning a Legacy Contact, after your death. If a family member or friend reports to Facebook that you are deceased, and if you have selected this option, your Facebook page and all content will be deleted. However, we’re not sure how much evidence Facebook requires to delete your page posthumously, and there is the risk of your page and entire history of posts and pictures becoming deleted by accident, or as “a joke” between friends.   We don’t recommend this option.

We think the new Facebook Legacy feature is practical and solves an important problem for relatives and friends.  Share our post to help your relatives learn how to assign a Legacy Contact on Facebook, to compassionately manage their page in the future.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *