Your “After Death Image” in Social Media

older couple on computerI bet you didn’t even know you had one, but really, we have always had an “after death image.”

It exists in the obituary that runs in the local paper, the eulogy at the funeral, memorial or celebration of life, and of course it always resides in the memories of those who loved you and those who merely knew you.

It also exists in your social media, if you have any. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest…and many more, but today let’s talk about Facebook since it is most likely to have your very personal “after death image” embedded in its photos and timeline.

What do you want to happen to your Facebook account after you die? Have you thought about it or discussed it with your loved ones?

There are a couple of ways this can go:

  • You are very clear with your family about your wishes. You leave them your user name and password and instructions on what to do with your account. Do you want it taken down? Would you like it to be up for a period of time so your friends can see pictures and memorialize you there?  Think it through and be specific. One of the most disturbing things that happened when an old acquaintance of mine suddenly committed suicide, was that his daughter took over his account and started posting “for him.” Yeah, that was quite a shocker when that familiar face that I knew had gone on to better things, suddenly appeared in my news feed with a comment that sounded nothing like him. I had to un-friend the account to end that dissonance.
  • You do nothing and say nothing to your family about your desires. Your account goes static, with only postings from other people and spam.

Perhaps your family decides to ask Facebook to memorialize your timeline. (They will still need your user name and password) Facebook has a memorial policy, (as of today anyway…don’t blink, because it could change!) and instead of leaving pages up as memorials with “friends only” privacy as the default the way they used to, they now will maintain account visibility “as is” and will even provide “A Look Back” Facebook based memorial videos.

These are completely personal decisions that you can make and you should.

What do I plan to do?

Well, I have a password protected file with all of my user names and passwords that my husband has access to. In my addendum to my will, where I have distributed my jewelry between my daughters, written the framework of an obituary and added a few notes to the family about what music would be meaningful to me at a memorial service, I will also express my preferences about any social media I currently use and provide the information they will need to access them. Yes, that includes this blog. 🙂

In times past, we left our mark on history and for our descendants in the letters we wrote, the journals we kept and the pictures we had made. The future will be no different, except that the medium will be of a more digital nature. Make sure you are leaving your mark in the way that you choose, and not in a way that is merely the default of a major corporation.

As for me, well, I am having a good time picturing what the genealogists of the future will make of all of this!

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