By Chris Powers – Special Projects Editor
What happens to social media accounts after someone dies? Different social networks deal with this question in different ways, but unless loved ones delete or deactivate the account, they will live in cyberspace forever.
Most users go about their lives posting to Facebook, tweeting to followers on Twitter, and sharing pictures on Instagram, but few realize just how permanent these actions are. That night of binge drinking will be there until Mark Zuckerberg flips the switch on the servers at Facebook.
Analysis from the Internet Monitor predicts that if Facebook usage continues to increase at its current rate, the number of dead people will outnumber living people by the year 2130. If usage stagnates or declines, the crossover could happen as early as 2065.
Preparing your Facebook account for your digital afterlife
Facebook allows users to have memorialized accounts. This requires a little bit of prep work, but it ensures users’ wishes get honored for the digital afterlife.
Facebook users can add a “legacy contact” to their account. This is the Facebook friend entrusted with telling Facebook about the deceased and managing the memorialized account.
Managing the account doesn’t mean the legacy contact has full access to it. A legacy contact can’t log into the account, read messages, remove pictures or alter previous posts. They are allowed to change the account’s profile and cover photo, respond to new friend requests and pin posts to the account’s timeline.
Of course, Facebook also gives the option to have the account deleted instead of memorialized. Just click on this option when setting up a legacy contact.
After the primary user dies, the legacy user must fill out a memorialization request and submit proof of death, such as an obituary or other documentation.
Can social media cause depression?
A 2013 University of Michigan study shows that the overuse of Facebook and other social media can make people depressed.
Facebook does not provide an accurate picture of its users’ lives. It’s the heavily curated, edited and braggadocious version they want the world to see.
People also tend to use Facebook and other social media out of “fear of missing out.” Who knows what’s happening on social media when we’re not looking? It could be the best thing ever. Who wants to be the only person who doesn’t know about “the dress” and whether it’s blue and black or white and gold?
5 ways to have a healthy social media life
- Trim down friends lists. Studies have shown that humans can only maintain actual relationships with roughly 150 people.
- ‘Like’ positive things. Put the Facebook algorithm to work by liking positive messages and hiding negative or triggering posts.
- Join groups. If interested in something, try to join a Facebook group with like-minded individuals.
- Remember it’s a snapshot. Similar to how photo albums aren’t filled with sad memories, social media is typically only the best of what a friend is doing.
- Log off once in awhile. Disconnecting from social media can occasionally be healthy.
Leonard Nimoy: A social media case study
When a person dies, social media can be a way for friends, colleagues and, in the case of celebrities, fans to reach out and grieve together. In the case of Leonard Nimoy, his Twitter account remained active for a day or two after his deaath.
Although the tweets have been removed now, someone close to the Star Trek actor was retweeting commiserations from his family, colleagues including Patrick Stewart and Zachary Quinto and even the Nerd-in-Chief, Barack Obama. These retweets have since been replaced by a message from Dani Schwartz, Nimoy’s granddaughter reading, “Hi all, as you all know, my Grandpa passed away this morning at 8:40 from end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He was an extraordinary man, husband, grandfather, brother, actor, author-the list goes on- and friend. Thank you for the warm condolences. May you all LLAP.”
Before his death, Nimoy always signed his tweets with “LLAP,” an initialism for his character Mr. Spock’s signature phrase, “Live long and prosper.” From his hospital bed in his last days, he planned on tweeting his poetry, but only managed to post two poems.
His last official tweet was, “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP.”
A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP
— Leonard Nimoy (@TheRealNimoy) February 23, 2015
William Shatner, who played Captain Kirk alongside Spock on-and-off for 30 years, was unable to make it to his friend’s funeral due to a Red Cross event he had committed to months earlier. Instead, Shatner hosted a Twitter funeral for him.
Shatner encouraged fans to ask questions about his late co-star and even answered some questions about missing the real-world funeral. He spent nearly five hours on March 2 engaging his Twitter followers in a conversation about Nimoy.