As we’ve reported at Passare, digital assets are now a significant part of our legacies. Yet few of us have thought about what will happen to our online accounts after we pass.
We found a story that discusses the value of preserving our online identities.
Before the dawn of the digital age, people made plans for passing on possessions like heirlooms, photographs and old letters – but in the modern world, what happens to our writings, videos and images online are often out of our control. “People don’t realize they need to make plans for these assets,” says Georgetown University lawyer Naomi Cahn. “The first step is getting people to think about this.”
Although no one can control how others remember you, if you leave your digital personas to chance, you may have little say.
It may seem trivial to spend time thinking about how to preserve your Facebook page but studies prove it can be a comfort to those left behind. The story interviewed 16 Facebook users and found all the respondents were emotionally attached to the digital memories of their deceased loved ones.
“People go back to these pages as a way to keep their loved one alive,” says cyber anthropologist Michaelanne Dye. Almost 60 percent of the respondents believed online grieving was more helpful than traditional grieving rituals. “My online profiles are a part of who I am,” said Dye.
That said, “You cannot decide the fate of your Facebook profile,” writes Carrie Arnold. “In this case, once you die, the choice lands on your family and friends.”
Facebook’s policy is to convert a profile into memorial pages. It will remove status updates and walls will remain active for friends and family to post condolences. “It was beneficial to my grieving process to see via my computer my friends were feeling the exact same emotions,” wrote one individual surveyed.
Loved ones can also request that the deceased person’s page be deleted. It’s important to note Facebook only allows family to download a deceased person’s account contents if they receive prior authorization from the deceased or a court order is present.
For the millions of people who have Google accounts and emails, Google offers Inactive Account Manager, a free service that lets you decide what happens to your Google-operated accounts after you die. One option is to delete your accounts; another is to have Google allow a designated person to view them. “Inactive Account Manager allows people to be proactive with their digital assets,” says Nadja Blagojevic of Google.
“Generally heirs and friends will not be in a hurry to wipe out all digital traces of you,” Arnold writes. “So it makes sense to construct a path where they can follow some of your online trail.”
Read the story here.