Now you can give someone power of attorney over your digital life. Today Facebook began letting users select a “legacy contact” who can partially control their Facebook profile after they die.
Previously when you bit the dust, your friends could notify Facebook to lock your profile into a memorial page. But now if you’ve set a legacy contact, that person can pin an announcement to the top of your profile to provide details for memorial services, approve friend requests and change their profile and cover photo.
Alternatively, if you’d rather banish your Facebook profile to the shadow realm alongside your soul, you can tell Facebook to permanently delete your profile when you go to the big social network in the sky.
Facebook product manager Vanessa Callison-Burch tells me that the company’s community operations team that responds to people’s requests to memorialize profiles heard “a number of poignant stories of what a legacy contact needs to do.”
For example, one mother wrote in saying her late daughter’s last profile photo was a cute fish, and she wanted to change it to something more appropriate. Another said their deceased child’s cousins wanted to add her as a friend after she died.
To make sure no one thinks you’re still alive, memorialized profiles now show the label “Remembering” above your name.
You can select your legacy contact by going here to Settings->Security->Legacy Contact, and you can modify a pre-filled message to the person telling them that you’ve written them into your digital will. You can also select whether your legacy contact is allowed to download a file of all your shared content, like status updates and photos.
One thing legacy contacts won’t be able to see is your messages. After deliberation, Callison-Burch says Facebook decided that this was the best move “To respect the privacy of other people involved in the message threads.”
Looking through old messages without context could be confusing. Legacy contacts also can’t post on behalf of the dead (other than the pinned announcement) or delete content from profiles. This way legacy contacts don’t feel obligated to clean up a person’s profile. “Would we be accidentally adding more emotional and cognitive load onto people by giving them curation responsibilities?” she asks.
As I wrote once in my beatnik take on living ‘A Facebook Life‘:
“On Facebook, life begins at conception. “We’re expecting!”, your parents post. You don’t have fingers but you’re already accruing likes. A shared sonogram means hundreds have seen you before you’ve even opened your eyes. You have a Facebook presence despite lacking a physical one.
And when you grow old, your family will ask their friends to keep you in their prayers. But when you pass, you won’t disappear. Your profile will become a memorial page, a shrine to the moments of your life that you converted from atoms to bits. And once again, you will have a Facebook presence without a physical one.”