What happens to your social media accounts after you die?

What happens to your social media accounts after you die?

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LAS VEGAS - Most of us have had a friend or family member pass on and their Facebook and Twitter page becomes a virtual memorial.

While this may be welcome to many people, there are also dangers. Their page can trigger grief and pain in others.

Social media is prolific but in historical terms, it's still in it's infancy.

Facebook, with nearly 2 billion users, has been open to the public just more than a decade yet there's a growing problem, death.

It's estimated eight to 10,000 Facebook users die every day. More than 30 million died in Facebook's first eight years. Eventually the dead on the site could outnumber the living.

"I have a former colleague that passed away 10 years ago and I'm still getting prompts from a particular social media site to invite him into my network and it is a little off putting sometimes," said Dr. Partrick Scott, Heads Up Guidance and Wellness Centers of Nevada.

Dr. Scott is an expert on grief.

"In the last eight to 10 years with the proliferation of these social media venues, we, I think we don't have a good solution how to handle death and dying, how to handle people who are actually no longer with us but still very much with us in the digital place," said Dr. Scott.

Some companies have taken notice of the practical side of this issue even turning it into a new business -- digital legacy management.

Companies like Safe Beyond allow you to share your online account passwords or even pre-recorded messages with loved ones years after you're gone.

Twitter will deactivate an account that hasn't been used for more than six months and Facebook has ways for you to will a legacy contact to handle memorializing your account, turning it into a virtual cemetery. Experts say, it's up to you to protect your digital life after death.

"As part of estate planning you should set up a data executor in your will that has permission to access your account either give them the password ahead of time or make them an authorized user of your accounts," said Dan Ackerman, senior editor, CNET.

This new frontier has brought on yet another problem, social etiquette surrounding death online, Dr. Scott says. Before you post that message on a loved one's Facebook wall who has passed, beware we do not all grieve the same.

"I think that for folks who don't grieve normally, it could keep the grief process alive longer and have some implications for having them get to closure. For other people, it's a wonderful memorial," Dr. Scott said.

For every person who looks to their social media community to share their grief, there is the other side. Private individuals who don't want to have your memories thrust upon them in their day-to-day life.

Unlike cemetery visits, which tend to be private and set to specific times, anyone at any time can post messages of remembrance on Facebook or Twitter, sometimes months or years after the person has passed
and your well-intentioned message could be devastating by reopening a wound and triggering pain they have tried to forget.

These issues around death and dying and grief and loss need to be handled with sensitivity in this digital age so that we are also taking care of each other in death like we did while they were alive," Dr. Scott said.

Here's some advice: Always let a family member share news of a loved one passing and only after all immediate family members are informed. Understand that this could prompt a flood of photos, videos and thoughts online by friends and family and it could go on sporadically for years.

Also be consistent as a family, especially in difficult situations like suicide or murder. If you don't want information shared or it's painful for you don't be afraid to say that as well.

Eleanore

Eleanore

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