These days, social media use is increasingly prevalent among most people and cultures. While these platforms give us a great outlet for connecting with one another during our lifetimes, it begs the question: what happens to our social media accounts after we die?
Social media platforms each have different policies when it comes to accounts owned by deceased users. Figuring out the proper plan of action for dealing with your late loved one’s accounts is crucial for both their privacy and for memorializing their online presence.
In this article, we will discuss why dealing with the social media of the dead is so important and provide you with a breakdown of the policies of each of the major platforms so you can better understand your current options.
Why Social Media Accounts Need to be Dealt with After Death
After a loved one dies, it is important to deal with their social media accounts quickly and respectfully. You may have been given instructions beforehand, or you may be left to deal with the accounts as you see fit - which could vary based on a number of ambiguous factors.
Several reasons make dealing with the social media of the deceased a crucial process, including:
- Privacy: These days, there are many cybersecurity threats out there that put a person’s personal information at risk. Social media accounts can serve as gold mines to nefarious characters looking to steal identities. As such, you should ensure your deceased loved one’s accounts are secure and do not share information vulnerable to theft.
- Informing Family and Friends: Many people stay connected with distant family and friends solely through social media. This makes these accounts some of the best avenues for informing these loved ones of a person’s death, especially if you do not possess their contact information.
- Memorializing an Account: In many cases, loved ones choose to leave up the accounts of the deceased as a memorial to their life. These accounts will often have hundreds – if not thousands – of pictures and posts that help keep the memory of the person alive long after their death. This is also a difficult choice – especially with the aforementioned challenge of both enabling remembrance whilst informing family and friends.
A Breakdown of What Happens to Social Media Accounts After Death
Below we have detailed what policies and practices each of the following social media platforms have in place for dealing with an account of a deceased user.
In most cases, you will (at the very least) need to fill out a form, offer some type of evidence (like a physical version or a scan of a death certificate), and get in contact with the platform’s support team.
Without further ado, here is a breakdown of each platform’s memorialization and account policies:
- Facebook allows family members of a deceased user to contact their team and make them aware of the user’s passing. They may select to delete the account, or memorialize it. Once the Facebook team confirms and validates all of the information, they will manage the account changes.
- A memorialized Facebook account allows other users who are friends with the deceased person to comment and share posts or photos on the person’s timeline. However, users will no longer receive birthday notifications, and the word “Remembering” is displayed beside their name.
- To learn more about Facebook’s memorialization policy, click here.
- Instagram is now owned by Facebook, making the memorialization process fairly similar. An account is memorialized after a family member requests this action and Instagram has verified the report of death.
- Proof of death can be as simple as a link to an obituary or a news article. To delete a memorialized account, family members must contact Instagram and offer proof that they are immediate family. This proof can include the deceased’s birth certificate, death certificate, or proof of authority that the family member is a lawful representative.
- To learn more about Instagram’s memorialization policy, click here.
YouTube & Google
- YouTube is owned by Google and requires a Google account to use the platform. Thus, both YouTube and Google follow the same policy for dealing with a deceased person’s account.
- In most cases, YouTube will not provide the password or login information to a deceased person’s account. The YouTube team will, however, work closely with the immediate family to remove the account and potentially provide content from the account as well.
- To submit a request to delete a deceased person’s YouTube account, or to learn more about the policy, click here.
- Google also has an inactive account manager that can also serve as a delegation tool for access to data and access to an account in the event of death. You can find more about it by clicking here.
- Snapchat, like YouTube, does not provide loved ones with access to a deceased person’s account. The only option Snapchat offers is the ability to delete the account once the proof of a death certificate is provided to the Snapchat team.
- There are no memorialization options for Snapchat.
- To submit a request to delete a Snapchat account, or to learn more about the policy, click here.
- As of right now, Twitter only offers immediate family members the option to delete or remove a deceased user’s accounts. There are currently no memorialization options.
- However, Twitter has publicly discussed adding new features that allow for a deceased user’s account to be memorialized. According to a 2020 Screen Rant article, Twitter announced its intentions to introduce memorialization features in late 2021. As of November 2021, these features have yet to be rolled out.
- To learn more about Twitter’s deactivation of a deceased user’s account policy, click here.
- As of November 2021, TikTok does not have a policy in place for either memorializing or removing the account of a deceased user.
- If you are trying to have a TikTok account of a late loved one deleted or altered, your best bet is to contact TikTok support directly to seek help in this task.
Other Online Accounts
Social media accounts are certainly not the only online accounts a person maintains – they are just the most public.
Despite being much more private, other online accounts still need to step up to the bat and begin releasing comprehensive policies for dealing with the accounts of deceased users.
An example of such a practice is Apple’s recently announced feature for enabling your iCloud data to be passed on after death. While this feature is still under development, the Digital Legacy program can be accessed through this support page.
Final Thoughts: Determining What Happens to Your Social Media After You Die
Even with platforms like Facebook and Instagram offering more robust memorialization options, most social media policies and systems are still all over the place. Most platforms treat this as a simple user support conversation. This is tough to navigate, especially when many platforms don’t even provide a phone number to call for immediate instruction. As death is an inevitability, it is imperative that more clarity is provided by platforms in the coming years. The solution to this inevitable issue lies in two factors:
- Users legally determining what they want to happen to their social media before the time of their death
- Technological advancements that enable simpler management of digital accounts and assets after death
We’re excited that we’re building a platform to help address most of these issues over at Webacy. We know it’s just the beginning and we’ll be hard at work to create the best possible experience for anyone who has a digital presence that they care about.