With so much of our lives now online, have you ever stopped to think what will happen to your social media profiles, email accounts and digital assets after you're gone?
At LifeSearch, we’ve recently found that millions are concerned about the fate of their digital accounts, because they’re worried they could get hacked and upset loved ones, or are uncomfortable with the idea that private messages and data could become available. But despite this, the vast majority haven’t spoken to loved ones about what they want to happen to their accounts.
All in all, a quarter of Brits have said they would want a “data death” to accompany their actual passing, meaning all associated social media and email accounts would be automatically deleted.
But just as we’ve embraced social media in our day-to-day lives, perhaps we should consider how it could play a role after we’re gone.
Reports say that by the end of the century, the number of deceased users on Facebook will outnumber the living, turning it into a sort of digital graveyard. And increasingly, we’re seeing people mourn the loss of their loved ones online, using their social media profiles as a way (and a place) to remember them.
It’s true that social media is frequently criticised for showing a filtered and overly polished portrayal of our lives, but when it comes to reminiscing about those who are no longer here, our feeds, profiles and inboxes often contain a treasure trove of memories – and in this situation, having rose tinted lenses might not be such a bad thing.
For those grieving the loss of someone they know, taking a digital trip down memory lane through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter can offer a space to recollect, grieve and commemorate in their privacy of their own home. Even though a physical bond to a loved one may no longer be possible, having their virtual presence remain can be a real comfort.
The community aspect of social media can also help to act as an outlet for grief, self-expression and a way to connect with others going through the same mourning experience. Equally many people use the space to raise awareness about certain issues and fundraise for relevant charities in memory of loved ones.
We’re starting to see social media sites take notice of this progressively relevant issue, and are updating their policies to address how accounts can be accessed and managed when users have passed away. While it might be an uncomfortable thought, Facebook now has a function that allows you to take matters into your own hands and decide what you want to happen to your profile after you die – whether that’s choosing to have it deleted, memorialised or a legacy contact appointed to manage it.
Ultimately, the decision about what you want to happen to your digital legacy is a personal one, but as our Let’s Start Talking campaign urges, having these awkward but necessary conversations about death is the best way to safeguard wishes and make sure we’re doing right by ourselves and our loved ones.
For more information about how different platforms deal with your data after you die, read this LifeSearch guide.