Afterthoughts

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What to do with a Loved One’s Social Media Account After Death?

It has become a trend to invite the wider family, friends and acquaintances to the funeral service via social media, most often Facebook, instead of paying for a newspaper notice. It might be a couple of weeks or even a few months after your loved one’s death, though, before you start thinking about what should happen to their social media accounts, their digital legacy. Take your time. There’s no rush.

When you feel ready, you will have three options: Either you leave your loved one’s social media accounts as they are and don’t do anything, request for their accounts to be memorialised or have them deleted. Each option comes with pros and cons which we will discuss further down. In this post, we will also explain the necessary steps and documents you need to either memorialise a social media account, which platforms that is even possible on and what it means as well as what you will need to do to have an account deleted. We have also included a section on how to create a memorial post on social media.

How to Memorialise a Social Media Account

Some but not all social media platforms allow you to memorialise the account of someone who has died. It’s a bit like freezing it in time – this includes all the settings that have been chosen by the account owner prior to their death. It usually also becomes more private. For example, a memorialised account doesn’t show up in searches or under suggested accounts and the platform won’t send out anniversary or birthday reminders anymore. Please keep in mind that even if you are the next of kin and can provide all the necessary documents to either memorialise or delete an account, no social media platform will give you log-in details to access your loved one’s account.

How to Memorialise a Loved One’s Facebook Account

Facebook allows you to choose a so-called legacy contact. This would be a person you trust to take care of your account and manage it once it’s been memorialised. Here’s an incomplete list of what this includes:

  • Changing the profile and/or cover photo 
  • Accepting new friend requests
  • Write a pinned post for the memorialised account
  • Manage tributes posted by family and friends if they decide on a tribute area

For a fully comprehensive list of what a legacy contact can and can’t do with a memorialised account, please read this article by Facebook.

If no legacy contact has been appointed before death, Facebook will not allow any changes to the account. You can, however, still request for a profile to be memorialised if you are next of kin and provide the required documents. This will prevent anyone from logging into the account and in that regard add a layer of security. If the account holder has requested for their profile to be deleted after their death, Facebook will honour their wish once made aware of their passing.

This is a list of what you’ll need to provide Facebook with to memorialise a profile:

  • The URL link to the Facebook profile you’d like to memorialise
  • The date of your loved one’s death
  • A photo or scan of the death certificate, the obituary or other documentation of their passing
  • Your email address, so Facebook can contact you + proof of your identity

You can fill in the form here.

Once memorialised, the Facebook profile will have put “remembering” in front of the name. If the person who died was the only admin of a page, this page will be deleted.

How to Memorialise an Instagram Account

As Instagram has been bought up by Facebook, it is now possible to memorialise an account on this platform as well. The memorialised Instagram profile will have the word “remembering” added next to the name. It won’t show up in the explore section or any other public places on the platform any longer. No one can log in, no posts can be added and neither can anyone add more likes or comments or tag that account anymore.

To request for an Instagram account to be memorialised, you need to log into your own Instagram account and fill in a form. You will need to provide:

  • Your full name
  • Your email address
  • Your deceased loved one’s full name
  • Their Instagram username
  • A link to or screenshot of the proof of death, e.g. obituary or news article or a death certificate
  • The date when they passed away

There’s also a box for additional information.

After the memorialisation, everything the deceased person posted prior to their death will continue to be visible to those they shared it with.

How to Memorialise a Loved One’s Twitter Account

As of September 2021, it is still not possible to memorialise someone’s Twitter account. This is, however, a feature, that the social media platform promised its users and that is expected to be implemented before the end of the year. So far, you can either choose to request to have the account of a person who died deactivated or leave it active. The latter leaving the profile open to trolls.

It’s been almost two years since Twitter announced that it’d delete accounts that have been inactive for more than six months. This led to a massive backlash for the tech company as thousands of bereaved people were outraged to have their loved ones’ accounts and therefore tweets erased from existence. For many, the digital legacy the deceased left behind is a source of comfort. The team behind Twitter realised the error of their ways and promised to not delete any inactive accounts until they could present a solution that allows surviving family members to preserve the accounts of the dead if they choose to do so.

If you would, however, rather deactivate your loved one’s Twitter account and have it removed from the platform, you will need to provide the social media platform with the following:

  • Your full name
  • Your email address
  • Proof of being an immediate family member or authorised representative
  • The Twitter username of the account you’re requesting to be deactivated
  • Full name of the account owner and proof of their ID
  • Proof of death

For more info, please have a look at this form and this informative article by Twitter.

How to Memorialise a Loved One’s Snapchat Account

Just like Twitter, Snapchat doesn’t have a feature that allows you to memorialise a deceased loved one’s account. You can, however, request to have their account deleted

You will need to provide Snapchat with 

  • Your full name
  • Your email address
  • Your Snapchat username (if you have one)
  • Let them know if you are over or under 18 years old
  • The username of the account you’d like to be deleted
  • Let them know if the owner of that account was over or under 18 years old
  • A death certificate
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Creating a Memorial Post on Social Media

In the UK, 48 million people, so 67% of the whole population, are active on social media. No matter if Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, TikTok or others, these platforms connect people. They help us spread news and share memories. And as with so many things in life, they can be a blessing and a curse – depending on the user and how they choose to interact on social media. This is particularly true when it comes to death.

As mentioned above, it has become quite common to announce someone’s death on social media and even post about the funeral or memorial service or celebration of life. It is a quick, easy and effective way to spread the word and invite family and friends. Sometimes a fundraiser will be set up in the deceased person’s name – it may be for the bereaved or for an organisation or cause that meant a lot to the person who died.

DOs and DON’Ts when Sharing a Memorial Post on Social Media

If you are the next of kin or partner of the person who died, posting on social media might not be on the top of your priority list and that’s ok. Don’t feel obliged or under any pressure to do so. If the deceased was very active on one or several platforms or you’d simply like to notify the wider circle of friends and acquaintances but don’t feel in the right frame of mind, it can help to ask someone you trust to create a memorial post on your or your family’s behalf. Otherwise, just take all the time you need and post when you are ready. When you share a memorial post, consider stating your intention (e.g. announcement of your loved one’s death) and your needs (e.g. asking for privacy or support). Due to the sensitive information you are about to share, it is always advisable to check your privacy settings on your profile as well as the device you’re posting from.

If you are a friend or member of the wider circle of someone who died, please take the following suggestions into account when sharing a memorial post:

  • Don’t rush. Sharing a memorial post after losing someone dear is not a race. First and foremost, it is important to make sure that close family members and friends have been notified of their loved one’s death. Maybe they live in different countries or time zones. Allow the inner circle a day or two to share and process the news however they see fit first. This blog post by Taya Dunn Johnson is worth reading to understand the impact of memorial posts that are shared without taking this into account.
    Take some time yourself to let the news sink in before you post. Whatever you feel like sharing will not be any less heartfelt if you allow yourself to respond rather than react.
  • Check your privacy settings and respect the family’s privacy and wishes. Don’t share any information that is not yours to divulge.
  • Choose an appropriate photo. This depends on common propriety but also on what kind of character the deceased was.
  • When you are creating your memorial post, take the personality of the person who died into account. What would they most likely think or say when they’d see your post? Let the deceased one’s wishes guide you in what you choose to share.
  • Do not make it about you. When sharing a memorial post after someone died it’s not about who is the most devastated or grief-stricken. Speak from the heart and keep your post simple.

Keeping Open or Closing a Social Media Account After Death

Please be aware, that anyone who can prove that a person is dead, can request the memorialisation of a Facebook or Instagram account – you don’t have to be immediate family or next-of-kin for that. Once an account is memorialised, it is frozen in that state and can’t be undone. Therefore, if you wish to keep your loved one’s social media account open, at least for now, maybe you need to talk to family members or friends who might otherwise choose to notify the social media platform of the recent death. Closing a social media account is a slightly more complex matter (see explanation below) that requires different verifications.

Keeping the Social Account Open

If you decide to keep the social media account open and active or to memorialise it (if that’s an option on the platform), there’s an opportunity for the death of your loved one to bring people closer together. It becomes a community space where family, friends and acquaintances who might not have known each other beforehand can connect and grieve together. They might share memories, photos, videos, anecdotes, etc and it can help people to feel less alone, get support and/or find closure. In this regard, depending on what kind of person you are, it can be very beneficial for the grieving process and people’s mental health.

On the downside, especially if you choose to not or if you can’t memorialise your loved one’s account but decide to leave it active, you and their friends will continue to receive anniversary and birthday reminders. This can be very triggering. The profile also stays open for hackers and trolls. Depending on the privacy settings and – and even in case of memorialisation if there’s no appointed legacy contact – there’s no way to control what people post on your deceased loved one’s wall. There might be someone out there who’s holding a grudge or still has a score to settle and might use this opportunity to do so publicly.

Closing the Social Account

Closing someone’s social media account means that it will be permanently deleted – including posts, photos, videos, comments, reactions, and/or messages. That’s why not just anyone can request this. The platform usually requires you to prove that you are immediate family, next-of-kin or authorised in another way (e.g. executor of the deceased person’s estate) in addition to the proof of death. When you are closing someone’s social media account you will have to provide the death certificate in 9 out of 10 cases. It, therefore, pays off to ask for 3 to 5 extra copies when you register the death.

Requesting for a social media account to be deleted is a big step. You might want to discuss it with other family members or close friends or give them a heads-up, so they can screenshot and save or download any photos or memories that are special to them.
Death is part of life. It pays off and will be of great help to those you leave behind if you plan ahead for it – just like you would for any other major life event. If you don’t want to leave your loved ones wondering what you’d have liked to happen to your digital legacy, you can attach a document with instructions or even log-in details to your will or pre-paid funeral plan. Certain platforms will allow you to appoint a legacy contact. It will help your loved ones if you make use of this feature should you wish for your accounts to be memorialised.