One in three Britons want all traces of their social media presence removed when they die because they feared posts would come back to haunt them, a new investigation has revealed.
An estimated 4.5 billion people (roughly 57% of the world’s population) use platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, but few foresee how they want their online profiles to be treated once they are deceased.
The study, carried out by Affordable funerals also found that one in nine people want them to be made into posthumous memorials.
Managing Director Howard Hodgson said: “A lot of us shy away from talking about death because it makes us uncomfortable, but it’s actually one of the most important conversations we can have.
“Being open and honest with your family about what you want to happen after your death is vital so they know exactly how to handle everything from funerals to social media accounts.
“Some like the idea of having a shared space online where grievers can come together to pay their respects, but it’s interesting that so many people want their online presence to be completely erased after they die.
“This could be due to fear that their profiles would stand the test of time, or maybe they would rather have their actual relationships remembered instead.
“Our social media posts reflect our current personalities, but there is still a risk that we will look back 50 years from now and be mortified by what we thought was interesting or funny.
“Attitudes in society also change over time, so it is possible that a legend or photograph that is not unusual today could be interpreted as sexist or discriminatory in a few decades – or maybe exactly. the opposite when the pendulum returns in the future. .
“Social media might be the last thing on your mind after losing a loved one, but features like birthday reminders and photo anniversaries can cause further pain down the line.
“Only by talking to those close to us about the oft-overlooked topic of death can we truly ensure that our wishes can be granted after we are gone.”
Facebook is currently the most popular social media site with around 2.9 billion monthly active users, followed by YouTube with 2 billion.
Others include the Instagram photo-sharing site, the Twitter microblogging site, and the TikTok video-sharing network, all of which have a significant number of users.
Users may not be aware that each site has its own rules in place for what happens when a user dies, which can be an unfortunate problem for a bereaved family to deal with after a loss.
These are as follows:
Following your death, a friend or a member of your family can request on the site that your profile become a commemorative page where the word “Remember” will precede your name and your messages and photos will remain visible.
If you want to make plans before you die, you can appoint a “Legacy Contact” – someone who will take care of your memorial page and perform tasks such as responding to friend requests and writing a pinned article.
However, they will not be able to log into your account and therefore will not be able to delete anything.
If you want your Facebook profile to be deleted entirely after your death, you can do so in your settings.
Facebook also recommends that friends and family start a new group so people can get together and share memories, if they want to.
The popular photo-sharing site is owned by Facebook, so it makes sense that the rules for both platforms are somewhat similar.
Friends and family of the deceased can request the account transformed into a commemorative page, with proof of death such as a death certificate, online news article, or obituary required.
No one will be allowed to log on to the page after a death, but immediate family can also request that the page be removed completely.
As the latest addition to the social media block, TikTok does not appear to have any formal policies in place when a user dies.
There is no option to turn the account into a memorial.
The best option is to leave clear instructions for a loved one to have your account deleted after your death, if that is your wish.
The microblogging platform Twitter currently does not have a death commemoration option, but is expected to introduce one soon.
Twitter bosses were forced to rethink their policies after many users complained that deleting a deceased person’s account prevented people from revisiting past conversations and remembering the deceased.
Currently, the only option remains to apply to delete the account entirely.
The research, conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Affordable Funerals, asked 1,000 British adults about attitudes towards death.
Some 34 percent of those polled expressed a wish to have their social media profiles removed altogether. Only 12%, meanwhile, expressed a wish to “stay as an online memorial”, while 12% opted to “be left active but not updated”.
Another seven percent chose to leave accounts active to be updated by family and friends, the same percentage who wanted them to be made private.
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