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November 15, 2017

Have you ever posted on Facebook or Twitter and thought to yourself, “Wow, this post is going to be on here forever. My great grandchild will see this”?  As humans, perhaps we do not often think about our own mortality enough, but when it comes to what we post, should we?

If something were to suddenly happen to you, would you be okay with everything you’ve posted representing you for all eternity? Past posts of former relationships, bold political statements, photos from your freshman year of college, all cemented on the internet for all to see.

This thought would send most people into a panic and make them do a full “spring cleaning” of every social account they own.

What’s Already in Place

Graph: XKCD

According to research by XKCD, accounts of deceased people will outnumber the accounts of people who are alive on Facebook by “around 2065, if Facebook stops growing, or around 2130 if its membership keeps expanding.”

This leads to the question: What the hell are we going to do with all of our accounts?

Currently, Facebook is the most prepared to handle this. They have two options:

  • Facebook allows you to turn a loved one’s Facebook into a memorial page. This will keep the user’s profile as is (allowing one last post or change of profile picture), it will allow people to go on and look through old photos and posts, but it will not remind you when their birthday is coming nor will the profile come up in the suggested friends section of other users, allowing friends and family to view the profile on their own time.
  • The second option is that the account be deleted entirely. To me this option seems unfathomable. All those years of documenting your own life just thrown away at the drop of a hat. If someone scrapbooked their entire life with all of their favorite moments, you wouldn’t just throw the scrapbook out when they died would you? And since Facebook owns Instagram they have the same plans.

An example of a Facebook Memorial Page. Via Tech Radar.

Twitter, meanwhile, really doesn’t have a set plan in place to memorialize accounts. Their policy that they have right now is that after six months of inactivity, an account will be deleted. This could be the right strategy because Twitter has always been less personable than other platforms, but something tells me that our current President’s twitter will be in future history books so change is likely on the horizon.    

The Opportunity

Image: LinkedIn

With all of this being said, there is great opportunity in this. I predict that soon we will start to see new social media platforms arise that are conscious of the fact that posts and pictures will become part of a person’s legacy and how society will remember them. Perhaps these platforms will be more family orientated so that reminiscing on old family members will be much easier than searching through boxes of old photos.

Maybe we will have something that schedules out posts for you after you die. Say if you knew that the end was near and you wanted to schedule posts for people to receive after you’ve been gone. Some examples could be big birthdays, weddings, birth of a child, etc.

Or maybe we will start to see more and more wills that are tailored to the fate of our digital content with requests on how to manage them.   

Think about what an amazing experience it would it be to be able to pick any relative and be able to click through their entire life right before your eyes. Pictures from school dances, vacations, weddings, opinions on pop culture, political, or historic events all right in front of you that otherwise would only be known by imperfect word of mouth!

So What’s Next?

Like all things in life, you have to consider the negative effects that this could have. If everyone was aware that what they post would represent them forever social media could lose what I think makes it great, which is people’s unfiltered and unapologetic views on the world.

I would hate to see social media lose that raw immediacy, but in the future, we will see something done about these “dying accounts” are world has become way too narcissistic to not have social life after death.

What do you think? Have an idea for the future plans of social media accounts? Reach out to us on Twitter.

About the Author

Matthew Dennis

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