Have you thought about what will happen to your social media profiles, personal blog, or your email accounts when you’re no longer around? The U.S. Government has, and they’re recommending that you take some time to add your final wishes to your will.
“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.”
Estimates show that nearly half a million people with Facebook accounts passed away last year. What happens to those accounts? As of now, it’s up to friends and family to decide what to do with your profile. Some leave them open so loved ones can post memories, some opt to convert the profiles to memorial pages, and some delete them completely. This is a big project for grieving loved ones to take on, especially if they find information they aren’t expecting to see.
What about a personal blog – do you let it sit idle, allow someone else to take it over, or take it offline? While it may be nice for loved ones to go back and read posts, some may be offended by new content being added by someone who’s taken it upon themselves to speak for you.
Even murkier than the Facebook page or a blog, what does one do with a personal email account? Ideally, email accounts would have a self destruct option that would forward necessary documents out to whomever needs copies, and any personal information that you don’t want shared would just implode. Unfortunately, unless you’re James Bond, this is not likely an option. Having something in your will would allow you to select a trusted friend or family member wade through your info, pass on what is pertinent, and delete whatever is not. Chances are, in addition to random jokes and communication with friends, there is some sensitive information in nearly any email account that the owner of the account may not want shared. While they may no longer be affected by the contents of their inbox, the sender/recipient or subject of sensitive messages may be. Obviously, whomever you choose to take care of sifting through years of electronic communications would have to be someone you trust to not share (or not even read) things that you ask them not to. The temptation may be too great for many.
As this dynamic intellectual property continues to become more ingrained in everyday life, trial and error will help us learn how to better handle tricky situations such as these. But for right now, with common usage of such sites being fairly new, there are likely to be many growing pains throughout the learning process. Have you thought about how you’d like your information to be handled if something were to happen to you?