Digital Death

We all know we should have a will because legal repercussions are real. Just ask the siblings of ‘his purple greatness’ Prince…he died 3 years ago and his estate still isn’t settled

And we all know we should come up with a plan for our funeral/deathday celebrations so our grieving loved ones don’t have to figure out things like casket or cremation?  Church or graveside? Amazing Grace or Let’s Go Crazy by Prince? The Verve’s Bittersweet Symphony or Over the Rainbow by Israel Kamakawiwo ‘ole? 

But have you considered what happens to your digital presence when you die?

Tech Crunch has calculated that as of 2016 roughly 4.2 billion people (aka half the planet!!) use at least one social media platform.

What happens to all our social media accounts?  Who has access and do they know what to do with it all?

Facebook

So far, Facebook appears to be the only social media platform that has considered what happens when their users die.  And they’re still figuring it out. Guess not even Zuckerberg knows what happens when we die!

Right now, (keep in mind how fast things change in the tech world) you can appoint a legacy contact (general settings -> memorialization settings) did you know this was a thing?  Your legacy contact has the power to download your data (the digital equivalent of passing on Grandma’s ring), stop people from tagging you (#awkward….) and set up a tribute wall.

Tribute walls are an opportunity for your Facebook friends to gather and share stories and condolences.  They stay separate from your regular wall. And they function as a digital gravestone or online memorial.  30 million people view memorialized profiles every month so it seems Facebook has tapped into a genuine need.

But perhaps that’s not surprising because grief from losing an online friend is just as painful as losing an in-real-life friend. People often dismiss this grief saying you didn’t really know them but the part of them you DID know (true and accurate or not) is still a REAL loss.

Other Considerations

Passwords

You can use password managers like Last Pass, 1Password or Dashlane to gather all your passwords together in one place and leave access + instructions on what to do with someone you love and trust.

Security Keys

A security key is a physical gadget that allows you to give someone access to all the 2-factor authentication you have set up.

Go Old School

Write it alllll down, passwords to all the things (phone, computer, social, etc) and put it with your will in a super safe place along with instructions for your executor on how you’d like all your digital assets dealt with. You’ll need to be diligent though and keep this list updated since passwords change all the time.

As for me, I’ve let my people know where I keep my will and they’ve got access to my ‘Funeral Jams’ playlist…and they know that Prince’s Let’s Go Crazy is the first up.

What about sharing grief on social media?

Do you remember that Chinese proverb “shared joy is double joy, shared sorrow is half sorrow”?  Like all ancient anonymous wisdom, there’s truth to it.

When we’re struggling with a loss we NEED to share the story of our grief as part of the healing process.

And these days it’s just so darn easy to post our grief stories on Facebook or Instagram.

Here’s the thing…

People who are grieving need a safe space free from judgment, criticism and well-intentioned Freudian analysis to talk about what they lost.

And we all know that social media is not a judgment-free zone.

Things to consider if you’re posting about grief…

1 – Set Expectations

At the very beginning of your post tell people what you need. Example: “Please no advice. Virtual hugs and cute animal gifs to make me smile are welcomed.” And then remember that not everyone will respect your boundaries.

2 – Consider Turning off the Comments

If you want to avoid the well-intentioned advice and judgment just turn off the comments. It’s totally okay if you don’t have the emotional bandwidth to deal with anyone else right now. People will still be able to “like” your post with a sad face or heart…and maybe that’s all you need to feel not so alone.

3 – Don’t Forget Face-to-Face Support

And Skype/FaceTime/Zoom totally counts as face-to-face. Whether it’s a friend, a coach, a therapist or that one cousin who always seemed to “get” you, it’s important to find someone who can show up with compassion. Someone who can hold space for all of your big emotions without telling you to “be strong” or “keep busy”.

When you encounter a post about loss on social media…

1 – Don’t give advice

Unless specifically asked for, keep your best advice to yourself. It’s NEVER helpful to tell someone how they should feel or what they should do now. Trust that they will figure it out and do what’s right for them.

2 – Don’t share YOUR stories of loss

“When my Mom died we….”

“When I lost my job I….”

“After I divorced John Doe (that jerk) I…”

Nope. This isn’t the time to show you know what they’re going through. Remember every relationship is unique and individual so is everyone’s journey through grief.

Instead, validate the feelings they’ve expressed.

“I see/feel/hear your pain.”

“It’s okay to be sad.”

“Your anger makes total sense in this situation.”

3 – Do share stories of the person who died

If the post is about a mutual friend who died it can be comforting for the griever to read stories of your favourite memories. Heartwarming anecdotes, hilarious shenanigans, and memories that truly epitomize the person are all dos. 

4 – Do consider what you’d like to hear.

What would bring you the most comfort if it was you experiencing this loss? What do you wish someone had said to you?

A few ideas to get you started…


“Thank you for sharing your story.”

“Holding space for your heartbreak.”

“Always here to listen if you need a heart with ears.”

Or maybe just a virtual hug gif.

Learning how to navigate the world of digital death is constantly evolving and will hopefully become easier as time goes on. What I do know right now is we can show up and take care of each other both on and offline.

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