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January 28, 2024
HomeDigital SocietyDigital Afterlife: What Happens to Your Email and Social Media Accounts After You Die?

Digital Afterlife: What Happens to Your Email and Social Media Accounts After You Die?

Data control

Ever pondered what would happen to your social media account, with all its posts, messages, and pictures, once you depart this world? The chilling truth may have never crossed your mind! In the digital era, our lives are increasingly intertwined with the virtual realm. 

Humans lead a double life, existing both in the physical world with tangible possessions and in the expansive digital world with ever-growing online profiles. Your digital assets include email accounts, social media profiles, mobile payment apps, digital avatars, photos, music playlists, and even sleep records. When individuals pass away, their physical possessions are relatively accessible to loved ones, but accessing digital assets becomes akin to untangling a complex web.

The Complex Landscape of Digital Afterlife Management

Accessing someone’s online presence after their passing is not just about reminiscing; there are practical reasons too. Families may require access to financial details, bills, or streaming subscriptions. This is why it is important for us to safeguard our online information from being lost or misused after we die.

However, unlocking the digital afterlife is no simple task. Identifying digital assets, understanding which accounts exist, and addressing privacy concerns are significant obstacles family members have to deal with. Bank accounts, email accounts, online bills, streaming subscriptions, and various social media accounts all need to be unraveled . Relying solely on passwords is insufficient due to the prevalence of two-factor authentication, often involving biometrics like fingerprints. Privacy concerns are heightened by the potential exposure of personal messages or content that the deceased may not have intended to share.

Take Control of Your Digital Afterlife

Understanding the complexity of the issue, some online platforms provide options for individuals to manage what happens to their digital presence after they pass away. For example, Facebook allows users to choose a legacy contact who can either close or memorialize their account. Similarly, Apple and Google also offer choices for legacy contacts, though their policies differ.

Despite these efforts, tech platforms were originally not designed with death in mind, leading to a growing digital graveyard. It’s estimated that the number of deceased users on platforms like Facebook will exceed the living by 2070. Relying on tech giants to address this issue is like waiting for an afterlife that may never come. There isn’t a universal solution or a single method to memorialize or delete accounts.

Some companies, such as Google, now delete accounts after two years of inactivity, but there is no consistency across platforms. Facebook, in some respects, is quite progressive and a leader in this area. They’ve developed policies allowing users to nominate a legacy contact, empowering that person to follow their wishes and either close or memorialize the account. For those who have been on Facebook since its early days, their profiles serve as a documentation of their lives.

As uncomfortable as it may be to think about, when we eventually pass away, it can be disheartening to imagine our online profiles just disappearing – but it turns out it doesn’t have to. Taking charge of our digital afterlife is not just a responsibility; it’s a crucial aspect of our legacy in the digital age. Managing our digital presence, much like making decisions about our money and property, ensures that our online assets are handled with care. While it may seem daunting, considering the vastness of our digital footprint, especially our search history, underscores the importance of taking control.

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