Widespread social media usage now nearly guarantees that the dearly departed will leave behind an account (or several). That will present some important decisions for family and friends to make in the aftermath of a death.
Should you keep their social media account active? Should you announce their death on their profile? Should you turn it into a memorial account? How do you even get into their account if you don’t know the password?
The answers to these questions are important and consequential, so think carefully about them. Here are some considerations when making those decisions:
1. There is no universal right or wrong answer
The choice on whether to maintain an online profile for a deceased family member or friend depends on their personality, the wishes of the family and the character of their online friends. Social media can be an excellent platform for informing large numbers of people about the passing and funeral arrangements and other logistics. It can ease some of the burdens from close relatives of announcing a death, but it can also seem like an invasion of privacy for the family or become a wildfire of misinformation. Those closest to the deceased should be the ones to make the decision.
2. Be aware of the dangers of an active social media presence
Maintaining a Facebook account is fraught with emotional danger,” says Brian Calhoun, Funeral Director at Stuhr Funeral Home. “The deceased’s birthday may show up on friends’ feeds, and others may receive their names as friend suggestions. A friend request for a deceased relative might prove extremely upsetting to close relatives or friends, even if proffered innocently.”
On the other hand, an individual whose life ends with a rich network of friends and no close relatives may be a great candidate for a continuing presence on social media. The Instagram or Facebook profile may serve as a way for friends across the globe to express their sense of loss, share their memories and offer condolences. Birthday reminders may actually work to keep the memory of the deceased alive.
There is another option, a middle ground between maintaining an account and closing it down.
3. Consider transforming the account into a memorial page
Facebook and Instagram allow the transformation of an active page into a memorial page, adding “Remembering” before the person’s name. That blocks friend requests and birthday reminders while still providing a platform for sharing and commiserating. However, be forewarned…
4. Closing or changing a Facebook/Instagram is not easy
Facebook, which owns Instagram, makes it difficult to delete or change someone else’s account. To close the account, you must have proof of their death and your relationship to them. Unless you have power of attorney or are mentioned in the estate or will, you may find it near impossible to shut down the account. Even if you do, the process can take time, so the profile can still remain active for a few weeks. The guidelines and contact information for deleting or changing an account are available here.
Some may also find it useful to share their social media passwords with a few trusted friends or family members in a letter detailing what they want to be done with their accounts. This special note can list information on all their active accounts along with directions on whether to go through the steps above to permanently deactivating the account, memorializing the account or just simply announcing their death on their page and letting friends and family comment, post messages to the page, etc.
Stuhr Funeral Home, a trusted name in funeral service for more than 150 years, cares for families of those whose lives have ended. Stuhr Funeral Home is committed to providing quality arrangements to honor loved ones and family traditions. For more information about funeral services available, visit JHenryStuhr.com or call (843) 723-2524.