What happens to your social media presence after you die?

5:54 AM, May 14, 2012   |    comments
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ATLANTA -- The birth of a child, a break up, a good day at the beach. These are just a few of life's moments we share on social media sites. But what happens to all of those memories when we die?

USA.gov recently sent out an email to followers suggesting they create a social media will. Attorney Allen Hirons says it may not be a bad idea.

"So much of our world is becoming more and more electronic, and if we don't plan for that, we're going to find some of our survivors are going to have a difficult time figuring out what we've done, how we password protected it," Hirons said.

That's Tammy Holland's problem. She lost her 23-year-old son Ryan last year in a construction accident. But she still talks to him day after day on his Facebook page, along with other family and friends.

"I just still talk to him like he's here," said Holland. "I just don't want nobody to forget."

When we posed the question on Facebook, many said they would like to see their blog, myspace and Twitter accounts remain active as a memorial or diary. They see it as a place people can come to share a special moment or say I love you. But others felt their digital life should die when they do.

Whatever the choice, making sure your family knows your wish is only part of the process.

"It's not going to do you any good or them any good if you have the information so encrypted with passwords and you never told anybody about it," Hirons said.

Without the passwords to your social media accounts, most sites will shut it down for lack of activity. Facebook will let a family member freeze your page as a memorial, but there will be no administrator to add new "friends", such as your children when they get older.

Holland has tried to get access to her son's Facebook account. She wants to make sure her grandson can see the pictures of his dad posted on it. But without his password, she's out of luck. Her family is mixed about it. Some feel his privacy should remain intact. After all, there are old emails and likely private details about his life.

Hirons says that's why you should put your wishes in a will if you have one, and put it on a separate piece of paper with your passwords in a safe location. Don't forget to keep it up to date.

"It's very hard to get disciplined to keep up with stuff on that kind of regular scale, but it's worth trying at least," Hirons said.

Holland gave her passwords to her daughter to avoid any confusion when she dies.

"It's privileged information that everybody shouldn't have, but somebody needs to have," Holland said.

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