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May 27, 2012

When real-life death hits online

One of life's certainties, in addition to taxes, is death. Since the dawn of time, humans had to deal with not only the death of our loved ones, but the aftermath. Settling accounts. Changing our life to compensate for the loss.

Yes, we should always make arrangements so that our loved ones have as easy a time as possible in regards to settling our affairs.

In this day and age, with the rise of social media as well as other online fora where people can hang out and socialize, it becomes even more of an issue. I blogged about this before, but two recent articles on All Twitter made me think about it again.

The first article is called "When You Die in Real Life, Who Will Keep You Alive on Twitter?" and was written back in 2010. The reason I found it is because there is a new article up, dated May 22. Entitled "What Happens To Your Twitter When You Die? Creating A Social Media Will," this one talks about the nuts and bolts of things just a little bit more.

The first article talks about similar things to my earlier post (and I'm proud to say that mine came first, so you can't accuse me of thievery), about things like "who will notify your network if you should happen to die unexpectedly?" You've established a presence online, on Facebook and Twitter, or even a blog. You even have a following, friends that only know you from your online personality. I have numerous friends like that, all of whom have never met me. We correspond by email or via our social media sites, but that's it. Without going through my email box (which I guess is something she would have to do), my wife's not going to know how to get a hold of any of these people to tell them. Hopefully there's at least one person that's prominent enough that she would be able to let that person know and the other person can spread it.

As for accounts, the article makes a good point about having logins and passwords. Is your loved one going to be able to even get into your account in order to let those who care online know about your death?

A lot of that I covered in my previous post, but I love this line from Shea's blog:
"This is perhaps a subject that nobody likes to think about, but it’s a reality, and one that can force itself upon us at any moment. Like you, I plan to live forever, but just in case the worst happens, what preparations can you take to ensure that the people who care about you don’t just think you disappeared?

(And if you think this is ridiculous and your followers wouldn’t care, then you need to find different followers.)"
Really, if nobody cares what happens to you, why are they following in the first place?

I think the more recent article is even more interesting, because it talks about the ins and outs of your actual online presence. With identity theft a big problem these days, not to mention the possible pain of seeing your loved one coming up on Facebook searches and the like, it's a good idea to have somebody take care of your online presence when you die.
"Your Twitter is probably where you share posts from blogs that you may or may not own, and it’s likely linked to a bunch of other accounts as well. When you die, someone could potentially gain access to one of these accounts and be able to glean enough info to steal your identity. That’s bad enough when you’re alive, but SUPER annoying for your next of kin to try to sort out when you’re dead."
The blog gives a link to the site with tips on not only writing wills, but writing "social media wills," which can include how each of your online accounts should be handled.

Much like a regular will makes your intentions known so that your loved ones don't have to worry about how to deal with your assets, a social media will helps them not have to worry about making decisions regarding things like your blog, your Twitter, and all of that.

Facebook, for example, you can either have your account deleted or they can create a "memorial" page where people can still see you and the stuff you did, but they can't add anything new to it. It also suggests that you actually have a social media executor who will take care of all of this, and it suggests making sure that he/she will get a copy of your death certificate because they he/she might need it in dealing with your various accounts.

This can be even more important if there is money involved, like if you've monetized your blog or if you have Paypal and stuff like that. If somebody gets into there and starts going crazy, your loved ones will have a lot of headaches to deal with that they would rather not have had.

It's all food for thought. I basically have only a couple, so I'm not sure if I'd go the whole formal executor route, but I would definitely think about making sure my accounts are accessible somewhere by my wife in case something were to happen to me.

Because you can never be too careful.


  1. Hey... I could be one of your online groupies, except I actually did meet you in person. It always amazes me when someone on Epinions or some other forum I hang out on ends up dying. Someone almost always ends up reporting it. The Internet has made it possible for anyone to touch anyone at anytime. I remember feeling acute shock when I found out Epinions' Don_Krider died. He was one of my best raters and had always been a delightful correspondent.

    I imagine the people who read my blog on a regular basis will only notice that the Internet is a slightly less acidic place when I finally kick the bucket! I think I'm sweeter on other forums.

  2. Knotty! I'm so sorry for neglecting your two comments. The notifications somehow ended up in my spam folder. Weird!

    You can still be an online groupie even if we've met. Those are the best kind. :P

    I remember when Crispy died. That was incredibly sad. It is sometimes an awful shock when something like that happens out of the blue. I think part of it is the sort-of anonymity, so that even the older people about whom it might not be as much of a surprise, they don't seem that old to us because we're not around them all the time.

    It's like you don't even think about the fact that the man/woman you've been interacting with online for the past three years is actually 76 years old.

    LOL even when you're acidic, you're still sweet. It's one of those tangy tastes. :P


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