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Rob Gould

Rob works as a digital marketing & public relations consultant to agencies, brands, and individuals. He has 20 years of marketing experience. He also currently serves in a volunteer capacity as director of pr/communications for TEDxDirigo. From 2005-2011, Rob served as director of social media & agency communications at The VIA Agency (Portland). Prior to VIA, Rob worked with several PR & advertising agencies in London & Boston. He is a graduate of The University of Vermont (UVM) and a Maine transplant (2002). Follow Rob on Twitter at @bobbbyg His real-life interests include art, travel, writing, design, psychology, the beach, & exercise (grudgingly at times).

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Posted: February 24, 2015

Looking for life after death? | How to set a Facebook ‘legacy contact’

By HampusWennberg (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

By HampusWennberg (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Not too long ago I was quite taken aback when Facebook suggested I send birthday greetings to a friend. A friend who had recently died. It was very disturbing. Not to mention, super-creepy. Of course, I’m not the only one who has had this experience. More than 30 million Facebook members have died, creating all kinds of post-mortem issues. Fortunately, it appears that Facebook has been paying attention to these issues. Thank you Mr. Zuckerberg. The social media giant recently introduced the concept of a “legacy contact,” meaning a friend or relative whom you can designate to be your “digital executor.” Making this decision in advance eases the burden on your executor, who then can start managing your page with just one click. Of course, this is only after you’ve gone on to your final resting place.

Until recently, those left behind had two options. They could close the account and delete the page or inform Facebook that a member had died, providing proof like a death certificate. If they chose the latter, the individual’s page would be “memorialized,” which restricted the page to current friends, making sure they weren’t reminded to wish the deceased a happy birthday. It also excluded the memorialized page from the “Friends You May Know” suggestions for others.

Now, with the option to choose a legacy contact, everything has changed. For the better in my opinion. MUCH better. So, now you can live forever! At least in the social media universe.

To start the process the user chooses a legacy contact under their profile settings, who then receives a message from Facebook asking whether they wish to accept this responsibility. Once the Facebook member has died, friends or families can inform the social network, which will confirm that the user has died. Once this has been confirmed, it will add the tagline “Remembering” above their profile name and inform the legacy contact.

The legacy contact can make one final post for the deceased user, and can also update the main profile photo, archive the user’s previous photos and posts, and respond to new friend requests (belatedly, of course). However, they will not be able to log in as the deceased user or see their private messages.

Yesterday, I decided to create a legacy contact of my own. The process was definitely creepy. (To do this for yourself, go to Settings, choose Security, and then Legacy Contact.) I typed my friend Josh’s name into the box (he’s like my brother); then I was asked if I wanted to send him a message to let him know what I’d done.

“Hi Josh, Facebook now lets people choose a legacy contact to manage their account if something happens to them: Since you know me well and I trust you, I chose you. Please let me know if you want to talk about this.”

I called Josh and warned him to expect this foreboding Facebook message. I didn’t want him to think I was planning on dying anytime soon. I’m certainly not. He still seemed a bit taken aback by the whole thing but agreed to be my legacy contact nonetheless. He was definitely happy that I had warned him before he got the message from Facebook. I was happy I had warned him too.

Now I can rest assured that when I die (yes, we all will), Josh will be able to post any necessary information about my memorial service and where to send donations in my memory. He will also be able to update my profile and cover photos (because my current selfie profile photo probably wouldn’t be appropriate for all eternity if I kicked tomorrow). He’ll also be able to manage my page, accepting new friends and even deleting those he never liked! However, Josh pretty much likes everyone so none of my friends should be worried.

Of course, if you don’t want anyone to have this kind of control, don’t fill in the legacy contact. In other words, you can just maintain the status quo.

So, what do you think about the concept of a legacy contact? I’d love to get your feedback in the comments section here, via email, or you can find me on Twitter at @bobbbyg. Don’t be shy! I’m still very much alive.

 

For more on Facebook’s new legacy contact option check out this article in USA TODAY.

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