So What About Facebook?

If you’ve been following me on Twitter, or really anyone in the deathcare space, by blog or Twitter, you know that your digital legacy is currently a big discussion–what should, and what will happen to all the digital footprints you’ll leave behind when you die?

Facebook recently announced the option for you to assign successor managers of your Facebook account, so you can designate who should manage your former profile (now a memorial page) once you’d died.  This is actually an improvement, as previously it was outside your agreement with Facebook for anyone else to actually manage your page–they would convert it to a memorial, but it would be frozen with no access for ongoing management.

Similar designations are also available at Google, where you can indicate who should be contacted for status and successor management once your account is flagged as inactive.

But why would you care?  If your Facebook life is all about skinny enchilada recipes and pictures of your cat, does it need to be carried forward after you’re gone?

Increasingly, for this generation of young adults, the answer is yes.

As the author of this newspaper article explains,

Death in the digital age has opened up a whole new world where outpourings of grief are more common online than at the graveside, and where the desire to continue to ‘connect’ with the deceased is facilitated by social networking sites such as Facebook,

The author goes on to cite the example of a young woman, dead for close to a decade:

(Consider) the Facebook page for Cork woman Tina Greaney who died in 2007, aged 26, of a cocaine overdose. Family and friends regularly post messages to their beloved — to wish her goodnight or good morning, sometimes sending their love, and, poignantly, sending annual happy birthday or Happy Christmas wishes.

Those of us who have grown up with more traditional coping mechanisms for mourning and grieving (cemetery visits and the like) may not easily understand or respect the younger generation’s need to continue what essentially becomes a one-sided relationship online.  But, as this youth quoted in the article explains, it is all just about keeping the connection, and in the way that it probably was largely done before:

You can think thoughts in your head, and think ‘Oh, I’m hoping he can hear me’, but when you write something in Facebook, it’s a more tangible way to communicate… I can, sitting in my room, just click over that page, look at his face, remember. It’s so easy and accessible, there’s still that piece of him that’s somehow, in a strange way, immortal.

Whether or not you see value in keeping your Facebook (Twitter/Instagram/Google+/Snapchat) up and active after you die (or if you even care one way or the other at all!) it’s definitely worth a conversation with your family, to see what they think.  So much of what I try to nudge you forward on around death (planning, documenting, researching, funding) is really not about you, but about taking the time to make the arrangements now that will take pain and pressure off your loved ones later–and your digital legacy is just one more piece of that puzzle.

A little time invested now will make it so much easier for those who miss you later on!


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