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Digital Death: What Really Happens To Our Online Accounts?

In today’s era of modern technology and the Internet, many of us live another kind of life—one that exists online in the virtual world. Through social media, we have become more interconnected than ever before. It is how we keep track of events, such as birthdays, anniversaries, and this includes deaths. This leads us to the phenomenon of ‘digital death’.

What happens to our data after we have gone? Will our social media accounts continue to be present, preserved in a state of dormancy and inactivity? This kind of questions stem from the concept of ‘digital death’. If you are not already aware, each and every one of us leaves behind a digital footprint that may not be easily deleted or wiped away. Someone might be physically dead, but their online accounts still live on. Everything that they have ever done on the Internet will remain there.

For the mourning parties, it is difficult to grieve properly when social media is constantly buzzing and reminding everyone with postings and pictures of the loved one’s passing. In response to this issue, most social media platforms have systems in place to freeze or take down the account of a deceased person.

For example, Facebook has its protocol of memorialising accounts as a way for people to remember and celebrate their loved ones who have passed away. On a memorialised account, the word “Remembering” will be displayed next to the person’s name. Friends can share memories on the memorialised timeline, but this is dependent on the account’s privacy settings. A memorialised account cannot be logged in and memorialised profiles will not surface in public domains such as “People You May Know” or birthday reminders.

For those who want to remove the account of a deceased family member, they will have to contact Facebook. A scan or photo of the death certificate is required as proof that the loved one has passed away. Facebook will subsequently delete the account. Like Facebook, Instagram also requires proof of death to memorialise the Instagram account of the deceased person. The information has to also come from an immediate family member. Many funeral services in Singapore will be able to guide you through the process of obtaining the necessary documents so that you can grieve properly.

If you do not want to permanently delete your account, it will be memorialised once Facebook is informed of your passing. Users can choose to appoint a legacy contact who will look after their memorialised account. Legacy contacts are people you trust who will manage your profile when you are gone. This legacy contact system is common across various social media platforms such as Google.

For a smooth digital death, it is wise for you to start planning how you want your online accounts to be managed when you are also deciding on funeral services. It will be extremely helpful for your loved ones to include in your will who your legacy contact will be and all the relevant information about your online accounts.

At Embrace Funeral Services, we will help to prepare the steps and procedures of a loved one’s passing. We assist the family to process the documentation required for the deletion or memorialisation of the deceased’s social media accounts.