What Happens to Your Social Media Account if You Die?

A comparison of Facebook and Twitter's approaches to handling accounts of those who have passed
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Created by Flrncia

Published on Jul 24, 2023
headstone that says in loving memory

With how much of our life is online these days, it’s easy to wonder what happens to our social accounts in the event of our demise. Our online identity and digital footprint form part of our legacy and so it is also important for us to ensure that it is managed properly. 

Understanding the policies of social media platforms and having a plan in place for our digital assets, especially if we use this for commerce, is now essential in our day and age. Here we’ll see how two popular social media platforms handle such precarious situations. 

Twitter, for one, takes a careful approach to handling the accounts of those who have passed. Only one thing can happen to their account: deactivation; this is done to avoid causing stress or offense to the families of deceased persons. With the account gone, they are less likely to come across content featuring the deceased person. 

Because of such drastic consequences to the deceased person’s account, requesting the removal of a deceased person’s account can be a rigorous process. For one, Twitter will only entertain requests from a person authorized to act on behalf of the estate or from verified family members. 

They will have to submit information about the deceased, a copy of their ID, and a copy of their death certificate to further facilitate their request. Twitter requests personal information as a necessary measure to prevent false or unauthorized reports. 

Facebook, on the other hand, takes a more empathetic approach and gives users the option to repurpose a deceased person’s account into a space where loved ones can convene and reminisce on the life they’ve led. They call these ‘memorialized profiles’ and are managed by ‘legacy contacts’ determined by the deceased persons beforehand. 

The word ‘Remembering’ will appear before the person’s name on their profile, people can still access the content shared by that profile, and most importantly, friends can still share memories on that timeline following the account’s privacy settings. 

Should the account owner not wish to memorialize their profile in the event of their passing, they can choose via Facebook Settings to have their account permanently deleted instead. This option allows the account owner to set how their profile should be handled in the case of their passing years before it could ever happen. 

From these two examples,  it is evident that platforms take different approaches to how they handle a deceased person’s account. Twitter takes a more cautious and direct approach while Facebook takes a more empathetic one. In my opinion, in the end, Facebook one-ups Twitter because it offers two things that the latter does not: a way to honor the deceased’s wishes and a choice for those left behind. 

As young as we are, it may not be a natural inclination we have to think about these things, but as we enter the workforce, and try to find alternative streams of income - usually linked to social media platforms - it is important that we also consider this. In doing so, we ensure that our online presence remains reflective of our wishes and values and that our loved ones’ memories of us remain protected and respected, long after we’ve left this world.

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