What Happens To Your Facebook Account When You Die?

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The question really shouldn’t be what happens to your Facebook account when you die because that is not inclusive enough, at least not for me.

I have been thinking about this on and off for a while now. Been thinking about it because Facebook is where I learned that three friends had died and an aunt. Been thinking about it because another friend died a short while back but her social media presence hasn’t completely disappeared.

Not that I am suggesting it should.

I have visited her Facebook page a bunch of times. It is where many of her friends and family have chosen to congregate.

Even though I am quite familiar with death and have lost more than a few friends it is still shocking when it happens. And as a parent it is a stark reminder to make plans to try and minimize the impact on your children.

My kids are still very young. If I died today it would be devastating. It is part of why you see multiple posts here that are addressed to them. It is why I have life insurance. It is why I have had multiple discussions about what happens if they lose both their parents.

Where do they go? Who raises them?

Those are the obvious ones which is why I circle back to social media. I am a dad blogger who is active on multiple platforms. What happens if I get hit by a bus, have a massive heart attack or take a bullet to the head.

I know that there are companies out there who offer services for just this purpose. Ask Old Doc Google to give you a rundown on who they are and you can figure out if you are interested.

As for me, let’s just say that I am not sure what I really want to have happen. Would I want some one or thing to wipe out all of the digital bits and pieces that I have collected and placed around the net. Would wiping my digital presence clean be good or bad.

I don’t really know and I am not sure that it matters. It is not because I am concerned, worried, scared or upset about what happens after death. That doesn’t bother me. What I wonder about is what it would mean for those who loved me.

Would having my words be a comfort or a burden. This blog is filled with almost 9,000 posts about everything you can think of. There are posts on politics, religion, sex, life and all sorts of other stuff. Is it really representative of me and does it matter.

Not long ago an old friend posted a few pictures of us from college. Two of them show me in a state that is less than flattering. If I had the choice I’d prefer that those not be the last images people have of me. Not that I expect them to be. Unless something crazy happens I will be back at the keyboard, tonight, tomorrow and for a long time to come.

Have you thought about this? Do you wonder or worry about what happens to your Facebook account when you die?

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30 Comments

  1. Kristen Daukas February 18, 2012 at 6:02 am

    I think about this all the time. Well, not *all the time that would be kinda sad but still. I’m like you.. I have my fingers and toes in a ton of digital spots and while I don’t really care what happens to most of them (fact proven by the current dormancy) I do care greatly about my blog. It’s almost 9 years old and while there were a few years were I was inconsistent with posting, it’s still a living journal of our lives… especially the beginning years. Another one.. I’m the CFO of the house which means the keeper of all passwords. I’ve jokingly told the Rooster that if I dropped dead tomorrow, he’d be screwed in more ways than one. All of us need to create a traditional will and a digital records will today.. before we keel over.

    • Jack February 18, 2012 at 1:23 pm

      Hi Kristen,

      Nine years of blogging? You deserve a hearty handshake for keeping it going.

      I love how our blogs chronicle our lives. I started mine when my son was 3.5. He is 11 now.

      Sometimes when I am flipping through I stumble onto things that he used to do and I just smile because I had forgotten about it.

      The password issue is something that I think about. Eight years ago my father got very sick and ended up on a ventilator and I had a hell of a time helping my mom break into their accounts.

  2. Hajra January 14, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    Hey Jack,

    One thing I can be sure of, the account stays.

    A friend of mine passed away in October 2011 and her account is still active. People still drop by to leave their condolences – kind of weird messages also, some people just tell her that they are missing her, or some just tell her to pass a message to God.

    The bigger question is… does the Man above let us access our facebook accounts once we are … you know, dead?

  3. Bill Dorman January 14, 2012 at 5:19 am

    Dude, don’t make me write a post about this……..everybody gets a reply but me…….:)

  4. Sergio Felix January 12, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    I have been thinking about this for a while and I don’t know why.

    I have a friend who died recently, his page is still up and many friends, including his family, post there almost every day, keep posting pictures with my friend and tagging him.

    They keep commenting there as he was still alive, he was a very loved person and I kind of like watching that but at the same time, I believe that it is important to ‘let go’.

    I wish that someday some familiar could say “hey you know what, this person is my son/brother/dad/etc and he is deceased, I don’t want him on FB anymore.

    That way you’re not mourning someone for your entire life but then again, this is a very delicate topic.

    I haven’t lost a sibling, a parent or a kid yet, so I don’t know how devastating is to overcome a death of that kind.

    I’m just assuming here (a lot actually) so I don’t know.

    Sometimes I see my friend being tagged in these stupid commercial ads from his other ‘friends’ and I honestly can’t stand that.

    Sergio

    • Jack January 12, 2012 at 9:51 pm

      Hi Sergio,

      It is sort of new territory so I don’t know that there is really any protocol yet. Even if there were it would be subjective in nature.

      I agree with you about taking time to let go, but when that should be….

  5. Adrienne January 12, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    This has never crossed my mind mainly because I have no intention of going anywhere any time soon.

    But just in case my things have been in order for about 13 years now. Yeah, after a close friend’s husband passed away very unexpectedly at the age of 43 I knew I had to put something in place. I mean I don’t have any children but I do have obligations and they need to be handled so my family doesn’t have to do it.

    Since my family isn’t really aware of everything I do online I doubt that my online presence will even cross their minds after I’m gone. So if my friends get comfort chatting about me after the fact then I say have at it. Trust me, there won’t be anything I’ll be able to do about it.

    • Jack January 12, 2012 at 9:47 pm

      Hi Adrienne,

      There is a lot to be said for having your affairs in order. I think it is one of the nicest things we can do for our loved ones.

      Not having to deal with all the paperwork that comes with death….

  6. Claudia January 12, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    Hi Jack…what an interesting topic….as you probably know, I am not really comfortable with death. That said, one’s online presence after their passing is an interesting concept. In my life, not one of my love circle is “into” blogging or social media like I am…so…it is quite possible that my online presence would live only as long as my online friends would keep it active…an interesting thought….
    Claudia

    • Jack January 12, 2012 at 7:03 pm

      Hi Claudia,

      I suppose the real question is whether you would want your online presence to continue or not.

      I tend to lean towards a position that is based on what my loved ones want. If I am gone, I am gone.

      The question I ask is will it provide comfort.

  7. Chopperpapa January 12, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    I struggle with closing out my FB account except that the Queen would flip. As far as my blog is concerned seeing that as today I have no desire to write a book this will be part of my legacy. Maybe one day my grandkids and great grandkids might give three shits and read a few of them. Maybe learn something.

    9000 posts…prolific!

    • Jack January 12, 2012 at 4:36 pm

      8 years of blogging provides plenty of time to accumulate a lot of posts.

      I think it is very likely that our descendants will be interested in what we have written.

      • Ann Jane January 13, 2012 at 8:25 am

        I agree 100% I wish I had this much information on those that went before at my fingertips..How interesting to actually know what they thought about!

  8. Bill Dorman January 12, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    And some people are dead and just don’t know it. BTW – I know where you live and the bus and bullet probably have the same percentage of probability.

    Once we are gone it really doesn’t matter to the person gone; but there are family and friends out there so you should probably contemplate what kind of impact it will have; if any.

    Over time, it will definitely start to mount up and it will be interesting to see how some of the social platforms address it. The flip side is, the shelf-life of some of the social platforms means they won’t be around all that long anyway.

    It’s not going to matter after 2012 anyway, right?

    • Jack January 14, 2012 at 7:38 am

      I don’t worry about the bus or the bullet- as long as they hit me in the head I’ll be just fine. 😉

      You raise a legitimate question about how long some of these platforms are going to be around.

  9. Davina K. Brewer January 12, 2012 at 11:30 am

    Not sure of an answer either. Lori mentioned it, think I thought about it yesterday over at Bill’s blog – who would continue to host my blog after I’m gone? Be nice for my tweets and blogs to live on for posterity, but practically speaking, it’s unlikely anyone would find them – or find them useful, valuable years after I’ve shuffled off this mortal coil.

    Not sure about my other accounts and like you, I think it’s up to my loved ones. Would it help or hurt them to see activity on my FB page, would anyone want to be on the receiving end of tweets? Then there’s the old joke: who do I get to wipe the browser histories of any secret profiles and hidden porn accounts? FWIW, you’ve got me thinking.

    • Jack January 12, 2012 at 12:10 pm

      Hi Davina,

      Don’t sell yourself short, I am sure that there would be people who would be interested in reading what you wrote for years to come.

      Maybe it is just me, but I think it would be cool to read the notes/thoughts/ideas of my great grandparents and other relatives.

      The hard part for me is trying to figure out how to keep my secret identity from being discovered when I die.

      When people find out my real name is Ron Jeremy I am going to be in big trouble.

  10. Jens P. Berget January 12, 2012 at 9:24 am

    Hi Jack,

    I have thought about this, but I don’t have an answer.

    I don’t want to be forgotten when I die, so I might prefer to create an email list that people should join after I am dead. This way they’ll receive emails for years to come (or Facebook updates from me that I wrote before I died). This way it sort of feels like I’m alive (I guess it’s a lot better than a tombstone) 🙂

    very interesting question, but I am not sure what I’ll prefer.. but it doesn’t feel right if people just forgot who I was.

    • Jack January 12, 2012 at 12:07 pm

      Hi Jens,

      I like the idea of an email list. Maybe I should start working now on TheJackB’s Dead Newsletter. 😉

      Actually I remember reading about digital tombstones that would play movies or display photos so that is probably an option.

  11. Jayme Soulati January 12, 2012 at 6:31 am

    I love this post; not what it says or implies, but because you’ve brought out an issue most of us refuse to address for long.

    A woman in my FB network passed and her photo just popped up the other day and it made me cringe with sadness.

    It was then that I wondered about this very thing and then moved on. I’m sure someone somewhere is thinking of a business oriented to digital footprints.

    Imagine being 75 and your less-than-flattering photos are still flying around…does anyone care? Maybe grandkid who is 10!

    • Jack January 12, 2012 at 12:04 pm

      Hi Jayme,

      I can see it from both sides. It could be a good memorial and a way for people to remember someone they cared about.

      But some of the pix, well that does raise a different issue. I have had to remove pix of me that were tagged because I didn’t want them floating around.

      25 years ago I thought that they were funny, but now…not so much.

  12. Lori Gosselin January 12, 2012 at 6:28 am

    Hi Jack,
    I’ve wondered about this in terms of my blog. I guess that would fade to oblivion unless someone took it over. Someone would have to pay for hosting etc or it’s – GONE!
    But facebook? That’s such a new social phenomenon, if I can call it that. Does anyone know what happens to your page when you die? Does it become a living memorial? A Time capsule? It seems creepy to me that you could post on a page of someone who is deceased. Who would read it?
    I’m just now starting to use facebook. It has always been my kids thing, but now bloggers are moving in so I’m moving in with them! 😉 But after I’m gone, I don’t have a clue happens next. Should I be thinking of this? Today? When I’ve just posted about the end of the world? LOL
    Maybe tomorrow.
    Lori

    • Jack January 12, 2012 at 12:02 pm

      Hi Lori,

      I know three people who died but have Facebook pages that people use today.

      Two of them were friends of mine and periodically I wander over to see what is going on. That is because people put up pictures and share stories.

      It is a bit surreal because you are looking at a piece of a person’s life that just suddenly stops.

  13. Bruce Sallan January 11, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    Interesting question, for sure. But, I have to admit I’ve other bigger questions on my mind than what happens to my FB account. I gotta take care of updating my will and trusts first, now that I’m remarried. Been putting that off ’cause I hate dealing with that stuff!

    • Jack January 11, 2012 at 5:01 pm

      All that paperwork is a hassle but it is worth doing. I have a few relatives who ended up being tied up court for years because of things like that.

  14. Mary January 11, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    It’s a question that was on my mind too and your photo situation had me thinking. However I’m quite ok with what would be posted, since the ones who know me best know who I am and nothing can alter that.

    I guess we could write on our will to close our accounts if it matters to us.

    Also, as you I do think that what I leave behind on my blog is a legacy and advice for my children. Again, what’s most important I wrote it on my will.

  15. Cathy January 11, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    I wrote a post about this quite awhile ago – digital footprints – and it might have been about a year ago right after a friend died. I found it comforting to go to her page and see other people’s posts expressing their sadness. I especially loved seeing the posts from her daughter. She posted once that her father was going to have the page taken down and so many people were upset about it that he decided to leave it. Over a year later and it’s still there.

    I also have retained a voicemail message from my Uncle who passed away. Sometimes I just listen to it to hear his voice.

    I think your digital footprints should stay around for awhile. It’s good for those who loved you.

    • Jack January 11, 2012 at 4:55 pm

      I saved a voicemail that my grandparents left for my birthday. It is four years old now and periodically I listen to if for the same reason you shared.

      I tend to agree with you about the digital footprints. I am happy to help those who remain find a way to remember me.

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