In the future, we will invariably die two deaths: The first will be physical (Hospitals, loved ones, tombstones). The second, and potentially more noticeable death will be digital (Facebook memorializing, stagnant Twitter accounts, lost passwords). Just recently, Twitter established a policy to handle accounts after the death of a user. Family members and close friends can now petition for the removal of a loved one’s account, after filing the right paperwork.
According to the new policy page, requests must be sent to the site along with:
1. Your full name, contact information (including e-mail address), and your relationship to the deceased user.
2. The username of the Twitter account, or a link to the profile page of the Twitter account.
3. A link to a public obituary or news article
If the paperwork checks out, Twitter can opt to either delete a deceased user’s account, or create an archive of the user’s tweets for family members. Similarly, Facebook’s deceased user policy, which was put in place in October, includes an option to deactivate. Alternatively, the policy also offers to keep the account open as a digital memorial, meaning that the user’s profile is still visible (only) to friends, though all status updates and contact information have been removed. And while there’s probably some real psychology yet to be done on the topic of mourning a loss in a virtual plane, these digital contingency plans still don’t address the issue of conflicting opinions among survivors or the fact that these social media graveyards may be a wee bit disturbing.