What happens to your social media when you die?

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CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK)—We’re always making plans for the day when we leave this earth, whether it’s filing a will, making your own funeral arrangements, or even figuring out what to do with your assets.

It’s a grim subject, but when we pass away, what exactly happens to our social media pages? Social media profiles are a reminder of our loss, but it’s also the platforms that keep us connected.

It’s everywhere—from Facebook and Twitter to Instagram and Tik Tok—and beyond.

Current estimates say more than 80% of all Americans, young and old alike, have some type of social networking profile.

It’s how we connect these days.

However, “When you’re gone, your social media is still there,” says Bill Gardner, Assistant Professor at Marshall University.

Facebook and other online platforms keep us up-to-date on the life events of our friends and family every day, even for those who are no longer with us: “I still get birthday notifications of those who have passed years ago,” added Gardner.

So the question becomes: Do you still want reminders of birthdays and anniversaries going out to people…even after you die? 

Gardner says, “We all have wills. We have plans for what happens to our stuff when we pass on, but we always don’t think about social media.” 

There are ways to address your “Digital Death.” Facebook, for example, has a setting that allows you to assign a ‘legacy contact” who gains control of your page (or removes it entirely) after you pass.

Of course, not everyone would take that last, drastic option. “When we lose a loved one, we really do try to maintain some attachment to them,” said Dr. Jason Newsome, a counselor.

Although connecting with our loved ones who have passed via social media can be a good thing, experts also have a word of caution: “I think it could also impede our ability to go through the grief process. It can cause us to become overly attached to a memory and overly attached to an identity that no longer exists anymore,” added Newsome.

And there’s another risk: “People with bad intentions can then take them over and send spam or phishing or other sorts of messages,” added Gardner.

And that’s why it’s important to leave your information for your digital assets with the right people.

By 2100, there could be nearly five billion accounts on Facebook of people no longer living.

A spooky statistic, but it’s reality. “I guess you live forever on the internet if nothing else. When you pass, you’re there. You’re a digital ghost,” said Gardner.

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