In 1789, Benjamin Franklin wrote a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, in which he wrote:

“Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”

It’s an unfortunate truth, but we’re not going to be around forever.   What should happen to our online presence after death?   Facebook in particular is a good example, as it’s effectively a diary of someone’s life.   This shouldn’t be lost if it holds precious memories for family members.

In a report by The Guardian, they reported on a study by Oxford researchers who came to the alarming conclusion that by the end of the century will have more dead users than living ones:

“If Facebook continues to grow at its current rate, the site could have 4.9 billion deceased members by 2100, according to a study by Oxford researchers. Even if growth had stopped entirely last year, the study finds, Facebook would be looking at about 1.4 billion dead members by 2100. By 2070, in that scenario, the dead would already outnumber the living.”

Will Facebook still be around then?   If so will it be able to cope with the amount of legacy data left behind by deceased users?   Should it be held responsible to maintain this history?

The Guardian stated :

“Facebook should invite historians, archivists, archaeologists and ethicists to participate in the process of curating the vast volume of accumulated data that we leave behind. This is not just about finding solutions that will be sustainable for the next couple of years, but possibly for many decades ahead.”

Facebook currently has a feature where you can memorialize an account on behalf of a deceased relative.

According to Facebook:

“Memorialized accounts are a place for friends and family to gather and share memories after a person has passed away. Memorialized accounts have the following key features:

The word Remembering will be shown next to the person’s name on their profile.

Depending on the privacy settings of the account, friends can share memories on the memorialized timeline.

Content the person shared (example: photos, posts) stays on Facebook and is visible on Facebook to the audience it was shared with. 

Memorialized profiles don’t appear in public spaces such as in suggestions for People You May Know, ads or birthday reminders.”

You can also add a legacy contact such as a partner or family member to your account so that they can manage your account, should you pass.

According to Facebook:

“A legacy contact can accept friend requests on behalf of a memorialized account, pin a tribute post to the profile and change the profile picture and cover photo. If the memorialized account has an area for tributes, a legacy contact will be able to decide who can see and who can post tributes.”

And it’s not just Facebook, you should consider other accounts also, such as Twitter, Instagram etc.   Perhaps also think about passing on your passwords to loved ones so that they can take any necessary steps to preserve your digital legacy.

The password management tool LastPass has an interesting feature called “Emergency Access”.   You designate trusted contacts to your account who can request access to all of your passwords.   You can decline any such requests, but if you don’t decline them after a certain time, they gain access to your passwords.    This way, if you’re incapacitated (or worse), your emergency contact can successfully request access to your passwords to look after your digital accounts for you.