DETROIT (WWJ) – When you die, you may live on on social media.

In this digital age, significant others, families and friends are not only coping with losing loved ones, but also carrying on the Facebook profiles they leave behind.

While it’s true that Facebook is typically used to stay in touch with friends and to share baby pictures, one local man says he was amazed by the impact of social media when he lost his wife of 26 years.

“I didn’t realize how strong, how potent, social media actually was,” Mark, who declined to give his last name, told WWJ’s Brooke Allen. I did a post, and it was unbelievable. It was almost like somebody of influence had passed. You know, a mayor or someone of significance … there were so many people that showed up.”

“In fact, I had more response from the Facebook, the social media, than I did for posting an obituary in the local paper.”

Mark says, initially, he wasn’t sure how to handle Mary’s page after the funeral.

“I opened up the page just trying to decide what to do with it, and she had different posts from herself. They’re still down at the bottom,” he said. “And I just continued, and opened it up … and I usually do that on the twenty-third of each month.”

Mary’s been gone for four years.

It’s important to keep in mind that once a Facebook account is memorialized, it can no longer be modified in any way. This includes adding or removing friends, modifying photos or deleting any pre-existing content posted by the person. Depending on the privacy settings of the deceased person’s account, friends can share memories on the memorialized Timeline and friends can always continue to send private messages.

As an alternative, some people choose to create a dedicated Facebook “group” or “page” as a place for friends to share their memories.  [For information on how to request Facebook to memorialize an account for a loved one who has died, click here].

Huntington Woods attorney Howard Collins says, since laws haven’t yet caught up to the realities of digital media, it’s best to give your executor the power to access all digital assets and accounts.

He said it’s becoming more and more necessary to assign someone to handle your online assets — such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and blogs — when you die.

“There are ways for people to manage their password so … upon death or incapacity there’s someone else who will be able to take over as a digital custodian of sorts,” Collins said.

One such service is Password Box, where Megan Smolders says their company keeps everything online — like photos, utility bills, and social media accounts — secure in the event of death.

“Password Box is a digital life manager,” Smolders explained. “It manages anything from your passwords, any information you want to store online; and then it securely protect them, and allows you the ability to pass them on to somebody you trust if anything ever happens to you.”

Smolders says it’s a secure process and nothing is ever transferred until a death certificate is validated. The service is free for 25 passwords or less.


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