Social Media After Life


Published: 23 September 2019

What happens to our social media accounts when we die, and why does it matter?

A recent study by the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) predicted that the deceased will outnumber the living on Facebook in the next 50 years (University of Oxford 2019). Studies such as these prompt us to give careful thought to our social media legacy before we aren’t around to make the important decisions.

As Carl Öhman, the lead author of the OII study explains:

‘These statistics give rise to new and difficult questions around who has the right to all this data and how should it be managed in the best interests of the families and friends of the deceased.’

(Carl Öhman quoted by University of Oxford 2019)

How Big Social Media Platforms Manage Death


person using facebook on phone and computer
It is predicted that the deceased will outnumber the living on Facebook in the next 50 years.

Facebook offers the option of memorialised pages for users who have passed away. Depending on the privacy settings of the account, friends and family are enabled to share memories on their loved one's timeline (Facebook 2022a).

Their page can not be changed back to a regular account and it cannot be accessed by anyone, including the family, unless they have been appointed as a legacy contact (Facebook 2022a).

A ‘legacy contact’ is somebody you allocate to oversee your account if it’s memorialised (Facebook 2022a).

A legacy contact is able to post a pinned message on their loved one's profile where friends can post messages of remembrance (Facebook 2022b). Facebook has also added a ‘tributes’ tab, in which friends can share memories without disrupting the timeline of the deceased (Marshall 2019).

A legacy contact can also choose to moderate unsuitable content posted in relation to the deceased (Christodoulou 2018).

If you wish to deem an account to be memorialised, you need to contact Facebook (Facebook 2022a).

How to Set up a Memorial Facebook Page:

  • Follow this path on your phone or computer: Facebook > Settings & privacy > Settings > Personal and account information > Account ownership and control > Memorialisation settings.


Twitter logo social media
Twitter states that it does not give access to a deceased user’s account under any circumstances.

Twitter is committed to working alongside grieving friends and family to deactivate the deceased’s account. It is possible to request that a page gets deleted but this requires providing your ID, information about the deceased, and a copy of the death certificate (The Walrus Staff 2021; Christodoulou 2018).

Be aware that in certain cases Twitter will refuse to remove an image of the deceased. Twitter has stated:

‘Twitter takes public interest factors into account when reviewing reports related to images and videos that depict deceased individuals. In limited circumstances, we might not remove this media, even on receipt of a valid report, e.g., police shootings or other newsworthy events.’

(Twitter 2019).

It’s worth noting also that Twitter states that it does not give any person access to a deceased user’s account under any circumstances (Twitter 2022a).

Twitter has an inactive account policy, so accounts may be permanently removed due to prolonged inactivity (prolonged in this case is six months) (Twitter 2022b).

How to Remove a Deceased Twitter User’s Account:

  • Follow this path on your phone or computer: Twitter > Help Center > Rules and policies > General > Deceased individuals.


person using instagram on phone social media
A user’s Instagram profile will remain visible but the profile will not appear in public searches in memorialised accounts.

Similarly to Facebook, Instagram allows users to memorialise an account. However, the account cannot be changed and nobody can log in to the account. Also, Instagram requires proof of death (Christodoulou 2018).

Unlike Facebook, you are unable to appoint a legacy contact (Everplans 2018).

In memorialised accounts, a user’s Instagram profile will remain visible but the profile will not appear in public searches (Christodoulou 2018).


person using linkedin on phone social media
LinkedIn offers users the chance to allocate someone to notify their connections of their death.

Reporting the death of a user to LinkedIn is relatively easy - it is completed via a form provided by LinkedIn (LinkedIn 2022).

Someone who has authority to act on behalf of a deceased person can request to memorialise their account or have it deleted (LinkedIn 2022).

How to Request Removal of a Deceased’s LinkedIn Profile:

  • Follow this path on your phone or computer: LinkedIn > Contact us > Request Removal of a Deceased Member’s LinkedIn Profile.

Google Accounts (YouTube, Drive, Gmail etc.)

Google drive on phone social media account
Gmail permits a friend or relative to apply to obtain the contents of a deceased person's email.

A Google user is able to set up an Inactive Account Manager to share designated account data after a period of inactivity (Google 2022).

Gmail permits a friend or relative to apply to obtain the contents of a deceased person's email. Users can set up a trusted contact to share their data with in the event of death, and Google will send the trusted contact a message such as this:

Jane Smith ( instructed Google to send you this mail automatically after Jane stopped using her account.

Jane Smith has given you access to the following account data:

  • YouTube
  • Blogger
  • Drive
  • Mail

Download Jane’s data here.


The Google Accounts Team

(Google 2022)

How to Request Access to a Deceased User’s Google Account:

  • Follow this path on your phone or computer to report a deceased user: Google Account Help Center > Help Center > Submit a Request Regarding a Deceased User’s Account.

Offering Advice to Your Patients

It's important that we all consider our digital legacy. If a patient in your care is nearing death, consider providing education to them or their relatives about the person’s social media legacy and what options may be available to them to manage this (you may wish to direct them to this article).

If it all seems like too much to handle, there are also an increasing number of paid for services to help people store, download and manage a person’s digital media and digital legacy (Dead Social 2015).

There is never a good time to broach difficult subjects such as this near the end of life. The right education and support, however, could mean one less burden for the family to be left to deal with following such a tragic event.


Test Your Knowledge

Question 1 of 3

True or false: Instagram allows you to request to take over a deceased account.


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