What happens to someone’s social media when they die?
Many of us have social media accounts these days, but how often do we think about our digital legacy? The assets we build up over a lifetime aren’t just financial, but increasingly, digital – from treasured photographs on a social media account, to the ownership of profiles on sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. In this guide, we’ll look at how to shut down a social media account on behalf of a close friend or family member, and how to take control of your own digital legacy and prepare instructions for others.
What happens to a social media account after death?
When someone passes away, their social media accounts won’t simply disappear unless the social media company in question has been instructed by someone acting on behalf of the deceased person, such as friends or relatives. So whether you’re devising your own digital legacy plan, or dealing with the account of a deceased person, we’ll explore the various steps you can take on different social media platforms.
How to close social media accounts after a death
Preserving a digital legacy after death means taking steps to contact social media platforms with key information on the deceased. Here are some of the ways to take control of your digital legacy, or someone else’s.
Approximately 45 million people in the UK have a Facebook account – and almost 3 billion globally – so dealing with requests to shut down a Facebook account after a death is not exactly unfamiliar territory for the social media giant.
How do you tell Facebook that someone has died? The quickest method is to submit a scan or photo of a death certificate.
Read more of Facebook's instructions on how to inform them that someone has died.
You can request the removal of a deceased person’s Instagram account by contacting the social media company using this form. You will need to provide evidence that you’re an “immediate family member”. This can include the following documentation in relation to the deceased:
- Death certificate
- Birth certificate
- “Proof of authority under local law that you are the lawful representative of the deceased person or their estate.
Does Instagram deactivate inactive accounts? Yes, Instagram monitors whether an account is active – such as log ins, sharing of photos and ‘likes’ – and an account may be deactivated if it’s judged to be inactive for a prolonged period.
For many of us, WhatsApp has become an everyday tool of communication; in fact, there are more than 2 billion active WhatsApp users worldwide. But how do you close the WhatsApp account of a deceased person? If you have access to their phone, simply follow these steps:
- Open WhatsApp, select ‘settings’, then ‘account’, then ‘delete my account’.
- Enter the deceased person’s phone number.
- Choose one of the reasons for closing the account (this is optional) then click ‘delete my account’.
There are more than 350,000 tweets posted every minute, but if a loved one is no longer active, closing down a Twitter account may be simpler than you think. Twitter have an which you can complete in order to make a deactivation request. Following this, you’ll be contacted by Twitter to provide more details, such as “a copy of your ID, and a copy of the deceased’s birth certificate”.
Read more from Twitter on how to manage the account of a deceased Twitter user.
Maintaining a professional network is a big part of everyday life, so taking control of a LinkedIn account can honour that person’s legacy. Working out how to shut down a LinkedIn account is arguably less complicated than other social media platforms; for example, you don’t need to provide a death certificate.
You can request removal of a deceased person’s LinkedIn account by completing the online form and providing information such as their name, profile URL and any links to an obituary. Once LinkedIn have successfully processed the request, the account will be hidden and no longer searchable.
Pinterest is a popular image sharing platform with more than 430 million monthly active users. According to Pinterest, you can deactivate a deceased persons account by contacting them.
Email email@example.com and provide information such as your full name, the name of the deceased person, a link to their Pinterest account, plus any evidence of their passing and your relationship to them.
YouTube has 1.7 billion unique monthly visitors, so it’s a vital part of many people’s digital legacy – especially content creators. Simply submit a request if you wish to close a YouTube or Google account. You will need to upload a scan of the deceased’s death certificate, or a “government-issued ID or driver’s licence”.
How to create a Facebook memorial page
If you don’t feel comfortable deleting a loved one’s online presence, you also have the option to memorialise a Facebook account after someone has passed away. This creates a space where friends, family and well-wishers can share memories and tributes about the deceased. This also adds a layer of security as it means someone would be unable to log into it with a password.
But how do you memorialise a Facebook account? You can complete an online form, and read Facebook’s instructions for how to change a Facebook account to ‘remembering’ (the word is shown next to the deceased person’s profile picture). For more details, you can read what a memorialised Facebook account looks like.
It’s not only Facebook accounts that you can memorialise. LinkedIn enables you to create a memoralised digital legacy after death, while Instagram provides a similar service to the Facebook memorial page.
How to set a legacy contact on Facebook
A legacy contact is someone who a person has chosen to take care of their social media account after they’ve passed away. You can add a legacy contact by logging into Facebook and accessing the ‘settings’ feature, where you can navigate through the additional steps in order to add the contact.
Help your loved ones access your digital legacy
Dealing with the finer details of your legacy can be easy to overlook, but by implementing a clear digital legacy plan, you can ensure your loved ones don’t experience the stress of seeing a social media account in your name when you’re no longer around. Here are some ways you make can preparations so that your nearest and dearest know to respect your digital legacy after death:
- Nominate someone. It’s a wise idea to choose someone who’s good with computers to manage your digital legacy, and ideally, to name that individual in your will so they’re aware of their responsibilities.
- Create a list. Write down every social media account you have – your family may not be aware of the extent of your online presence.
- Keep your passwords safe. You could write down your social media passwords so long as they’re stored in a safe place where your loved ones can find them. Or you could give them instructions on how to use a password manager tool that uses encrypted passwords.
Finally, your letter of wishes could include a digital section, including details of what should happen to your social media accounts after your death.