Tech Watch: Social Media in the Afterlife

Category:  Tech Watch
Wednesday, September 5th, 2012 at 11:00 AM

In my time working at Epic Web Studios, I’ve come across a fair amount of crazy Facebook pages and people. But I occasionally wonder, what happens to a page or a person when they go out of business/die? And what about old pages for politicians who lost the election?

See, when I first thought of this, I instantly assumed that everything was deleted if/when it became out of date. However, (luckily) this is not the case. The Internets pose a great archive of the history of your community, including some places that have gone under. For example, Kathy Dahlkemper still has a Facebook page. And while the former Congresswoman only joined Facebook a few months before losing her seat, the traces of history remain out there for all to see.

Some organizations, however, are savvy with social media when it comes keeping pages current and accurate. They know to clean up their abandoned houses when they move on. Mercyhurst University is a prime example of this. When moving from “College” to “University,” they deleted the former page after about two weeks of using the new one, and the transition made for an easy explanation of what the company’s brand is without confusing people too much.

But what about people? What happens to our social media presence when we die, and should we worry about putting “Facebook account” into our will? Not so fast, according to Mobiledia.com on March 21, 2012:

“When Facebook is notified of a death, it memorializes the profile and restricts it to a ‘friends only’ privacy level. Facebook will provide the estate of the deceased with a record of the account data, but only ‘if prior consent is obtained from or decreed by the deceased or mandated by law.’

“Facebook will also honor requests from friends and relatives to remove a deceased member’s profile. But gaining flat-out access to someone else’s account after their death is not permitted. Creating a memorial page is okay; taking over someone’s personal profile page is not.”

So basically, you can keep a page up for a deceased relative, but don’t go posting on their page. Personally, I think that Facebook needs to do a better job of communicating to people how and why pages should be deleted. Sure, Facebook has a serious IPO problem right now, but if it’s expect to be around when businesses start, Facebook should be around when businesses close too. Having a plan of action for when a page needs removed shows that the social networking site is focusing long-term (not something Facebook is known for right now).

Personally, I’ll probably just give my account to my son/daughter when I’m old – mostly because I really don’t want my Klout Score to drop too low. But beyond that, a Facebook account could act as a sort of scrapbook, detailing someone’s life in the modern era. But don’t worry, I’m not drafting a will yet.

Epic can be reached at Epic@ErieReader.com

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