Until Death Do Us Part: A Social Media Exit Plan

Until Death Do Us Part: A Social Media Exit Plan

A large chunk of our life has moved online. Our work, our finances, our friendships: they all have a space online, and you are the gatekeeper to those virtual rooms.

People who are dying often think long and hard about making life easier for others after they're gone.  But the reality is that none of us know when we're going to go.  A simple thing we can do for the people we leave behind is give them the keys and directions to what we want done with our online life after we're gone.

Don't bookmark this post and then put off the tasks indefinitely.  Set aside one hour today to make sure that you take these steps before you're gone.


Image: Mike Babcock via Flickr

Password Passbook

There will be plenty of questions that our loved ones never thought to ask that will plague them after we're gone. Don't make passwords one of these things. They are a simple piece of information you can leave behind for someone you trust who may need to get into your accounts after you're gone. Yes, some sites will help your loved ones gain access, but really, don't make them jump through hoops while they're grieving.

Create a simple, three-column document... on paper.  Why save it on paper instead of on the computer itself?  Because a document containing passwords could be found on a computer simply by searching for the word "password."  The point is to make this document as simple and straightforward as possible, so a grieving family member can utilize it to get into your accounts.

The three categories should be site name, user name, and password.  You can additionally write the answer to any security questions you have on the account.

Put this information in a sealed envelope, and store it in a safe place in the house with other important papers.  Update it regularly and reseal it in a new envelope every time information changes or a new account is added.

Be Clear With Family

What would you want placed online after death? An announcement? Would you want your sites taken down? Left up for eternity? Now is the time to make those decisions.

Clearly write out instructions on what you want to have go up online as well as what you want to have happen to each of your accounts.  Some sites will allow family members to memorialize or delete accounts even without your password, but really, in a time of mourning, you can make things easier for the people left behind if they know specifically what you want (or don't want) done.

Create a document where you walk through, site-by-site, what you want stated (or not stated) on each account as well as whether to keep up the account untouched, memorialize it, or delete it after a set amount of time.

Social Media Upkeep

It's not enough to tell family members that you want your blog to remain online for eternity.  If you self-host your site, you need to give clear instructions on how to keep renewing your domain year after year.  You need to create a document that gives your blog host name, your domain host information (if it differs from your host), and the dates that each aspect of your account renews.

If you are choosing not to renew a self-hosted account indefinitely, know that the domain will be lost if it's not renewed, and your family members will be locked out of your site's dashboard.  Actually, make sure your loved ones know this fact, so they can act in a timely manner after your death.

Designate a Social Media Helper

Not every person in your life feels comfortable or familiar with social media.  You can do your loved ones a favour by designating someone to be their social media helper in your absence.  This can be a trusted friend that they can ask questions if they arise after your death.  How to renew a domain name, how to clean out your direct messages on Twitter, or how to search Gmail are all things people unfamiliar with these services may have difficulty navigating, especially those who don't spend a lot of time online.  Give them the name and email address of a person who has agreed to help them out after you're gone.

Listen, no one wants to think about the day they won't be here.  But just as people construct a will for their personal possessions to make their wishes clear, we need to make a plan for our online content and accounts.  The loss of you will be hard enough.  Don't make it more difficult for the people left behind to decide what to do and how to access the online accounts that were important to you in life.

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her novel about blogging is Life from Scratch.

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