My father died on Valentine’s Day and the last thing on my mind was his Facebook page. Soon enough, friends and family began to post condolences on his Facebook page, which showed up in my newsfeed. I couldn’t ignore it for long.
After conferring with my mother, we agreed that I should shut down his Facebook page (which, to be honest, he didn’t use much anyway).
Although my father was always interested in the latest gadget (he was proud to have been among the first people to own a home computer) and clutched his iPad wherever he went, he had not yet embraced social media.
He joined Twitter, but never tweeted. He wasn’t on Foursquare, Instagram, Pinterest or Google Plus. Although he loved researching, writing, and making new friends, he didn’t get around to starting a blog.
He was too busy with all of his other hobbies: singing in the barbershop choir, teaching therapeutic horseback riding, volunteering at the hospital, taking his dog for a walk, and researching the Civil War. If he had lived longer, I have no doubt my dad would have gotten around to blogging about all of his hobbies.
Aside from his Facebook account, he didn’t leave much of a digital footprint. In fact, when I googled my dad recently, the only things that showed up were his online obituary and his reviews on Amazon.com (including one for my book).
Still, seeing my dad’s name online provided a tiny bit of comfort to me. It was satisfying just to see some concrete proof that he existed. In some ways, I wished there was more evidence of his life online. If he had come of age a generation of two later, his life would have been chronicled online — in Instagram photos, status updates and blog posts.
Deleting my dad’s Facebook account was an easy decision, but how would my family have proceeded if he had a much larger digital footprint? He had a will, but it didn’t include social media in it.
Given that so many people now spend a good deal of their time online, the government recently recommended that people draft a social media will, in addition to a traditional will. On USA.gov, the U.S. government official web portal, the reasons for a social media will are outlined clearly:
Social media is a part of daily life, but what happens to the online content that you created once you die?
If you have social media profiles set up online, you should create a statement of how you would like your online identity to be handled. Just like a traditional will helps your survivors handle your physical belongings, a social media will spells out how you want your online identity to be handled.
Like with a traditional will, you’ll need to appoint someone you trust as an online executor. This person will be responsible for closing your email addresses, social media profiles, and blogs after you are deceased.
The site also lists steps to take in order to create a social media will, including giving your online executor a document that lists all the websites where you have a profile, along with your usernames and passwords.
Will you create a social media will? Do you ever think of your digital footprint or what will happen to your digital afterlife? It’s morbid to dwell on it, but it’s good to ask yourself whether you’d like your Facebook Timeline to end when you do or whether you’ll want it to “live” on in memoriam.
Photo: Shutterstock/A Fountain Pen
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