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May 1, 2017
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May 1, 2017

What happens to your social media networks when you die?

Bit of a morbid topic, however… More and more of us are putting facets of our lives onto the web, through status updates, videos, photos, check-ins. In fact, apparently 340,000 people die annually who are on Facebook. But what happens to this digital archive after we’re gone?

David Edmundson-Bird, digital marketing communications course director at Manchester Metropolitan University spoke to The Preston Social about it on last week.

The consensus was “when something is out of your control, it’s worrying. And this issue of posthumous digital persistence of identity has the potential to be out of our control”

What are the issues?


We’re only 5 years into social media, but by the time we’re 80, almost everyone on the planet will be affected by it. Already children have their whole lives on social networks, right from the 12 week scans their parents post online.

The internet has a memory that never fades. It never forgets anything and is almost indestructible. You cannot delete it and there will always be a trace. And we are saying much richer, much more private things about ourselves.

So be careful!

Morality and ethics

Look at the Leverson enquiry – sometimes photos, news reports are totally out of our control. You can be tagged on Facebook, identified, even though you don’t have an account.

Law and practicality

Who owns our images and data? Facebook reassures us that we own our images, but through the small print it would seem there is no guarantee that we can ever totally remove things, because of sharing/back up copies etc.

Twitter does keep it all our tweets

Hotmail deletes inactive accounts

Linkedin has a deceased member death form

And the solutions?

100 years ago if you were no one special, you died and then were forgotten. Now, even though we might be no one special, but our ‘stuff’ is left. So years ago, the priviledged “left their papers to one’s estate”. Now effectively we all do that – unless we make arrangements.

Look at Memolane is a ‘scrapbook’ of your identity and your memories and offers a good cross network of your life. If you want it!

There is such a thing as memorialism. Facebook allow you to memorialise an account, which stops adverts or people hacking into them;  stops people from friending the deceased etc. And, if asked, they will remove the deceased’s account.

There are lots of firms who will handle your identity online on your death according to your wishes.

Here are some tips:

  • write a will with details on how you can access accounts.
  • If you change passwords you need to change your will.
  • Name the networks you belong to (I’m sure it will be a shock, how many things we all join online). Keep a record of them all
  • Use an online trustee (An Escrow for identity). You will have to pay for it but even if they go out of business, your estate will still have access.

So if you’re planning on dying soon (and I hope you’re not…) make sure you find a lawyer who understands the value of your online identity. Build it into your will . Make sure your estate and executors now.

And most of all, your banking password needs to be in that will too

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