After a loved one dies, families can face a huge burden when it comes to sorting out the departed's affairs. And as social media use has increased, managing the accounts left behind is now an added responsibility. But Facebook has now made that process easier. Reporter Candace Hopkins explains how.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- After a loved one has passed away, it can be an extremely stressful time -- there are funeral services to plan, financial obligations to consider, and now that many people with an Internet connection use social media, family and friends also are left wondering what to do about the accounts left behind.
"This is a brand new conversation. This is something that really reflects the mainstream nature of social media and social networking and how central it's become to our interactions with other people," said Anthony Rotolo, Syracuse University social media professor.
Facebook has an estimated 1 billion users throughout the world. If the company isn't contacted about a user's death, their account remains active. In some cases, that has been problematic.
"It begins to remind family members of that individual's birthday. It might suggest to friends that they may know that person and should friend them, so that can become a painful experience," said Rotolo.
Families had the option to ask Facebook to turn the page into a memorial, but it didn't give them any control over it. That has now changed, with the legacy contact. It allows users to pick a person to manage their account if they should die. While that person would have control over some aspects of the account, there would still be limitations.
"They can memorialize the page by changing the profile picture, changing the cover image and so on, but they cannot begin to post as that person, or log into Facebook as that person, and Facebook, at the point of memorialization, will cease any reminders about birthdays or friendships and things like that for the person," said Rotolo.
The legacy contact doesn't have to be a relative, it can actually be anyone on your friends list. And there will still be some level of privacy, because that person will not have access to messages. But the hope is, their control of the account can help leave behind a fitting digital legacy of their loved one.
The legacy contact would also be able to download an archive of the account's posts, photos and more. They have the option to delete the account.
You can activate this tool in the security settings page.