When someone passes those nearest know that friends and business associates will be grieving. But in our ever expanding world that is fueled by the internet there are now virtual friends out there. Maybe the deceased never met these people. Maybe these folks live a continent away. But they took pleasure in a friendly word, the funny posts, or the insightful blogs.
Then - suddenly there is silence.
These virtual friends were as much legitimate acquaintances as the folks in the community, and the deceased will be just as missed.
A recent death brought this home to me, though the deceased was a 19-year old dog. Through Bark N’ Rest’s Facebook postings many of us have learned the stories, and learned to love, the permanent residents of this unique shelter. Sugar Bear was elderly dog whose story many of us had followed. And when her age caught up with her virtual friends shared a few of her last hours of being spoiled by the family, and then grieved with the family when Sugar Bear passed on.
We learn the stories of our internet friends. We pray for them if they are ill, and we offer our support during their battles. And we grief at the times when those battles are lost.
Notices, or memorial pages, are much like the obituary. It answers the question of what happened. Of why there was suddenly just silence. And allows for a means of closure, and the ability to celebrate a life. Even if it was a life shared across the internet.
No matter whether family is having to go through personal effects, or handling bills, or dealing with computer accounts, many find it very hard to look upon the reminder of a life now gone. Often times the reaction is to deactivate the email and various accounts. However, what many don't realize is that in some cases deactivation is not actually deleting an account, and can be reversed.
The various social media platforms now require prove of death, and relationship, before accounts can be managed. However, they do offer various ways of handling the accounts.
Facebook requires the survivors to contact them. They will never give out account information, but after proving that a death has taken place, and that you are the representative, you can request one of three actions. One is to request that the site be memorialized; this means that people can add to the timeline, and messages, but other than that nothing else can be changed. The second action is to deactivate; this is a reversible action, and the family can later decide to memorialize. The last action is to delete the account, and this is a permanent action.
Twitter requires all documentation to be mailed in. They will not give out account information, but with the correct documentation they will deactivate the account.
Google always seems to be thinking ahead, and offers the "Inactive Account Manager" so that you can decide how your many Google accounts are to be handled. You can decide if trusted contacts will have access to your accounts, or if your email and data will be deleted after an allotted amount of time.
Pinterest requires full documentation of a death, and relationship, to deactivate an account. The family member needs to first send an email to their customer support.
Linkedin requires an online form to remove a member's profile, along with proper paperwork.
Instagram and Tumblr require you to contact their support emails, and representatives will then contact the family with the needed requirements.
Many funeral homes are now creating checklists that can be used to make sure accounts have been dealt with. These same checklists can help with pre-planning, and provide the family with account information that allows for easier handling of the accounts.
Still many would think that this is trivial compared to more pressing concerns of final arrangements, and financial concerns. However, internet accounts should be considered just as vital, since inactive accounts can be gateways to identity theft, and that is the last thing a family needs as they try to deal with the intricacies of death.
Even more pressing is when the deceased was a business owner. Whether the business has employees, or the business owner was the only staff, those accounts are vulnerable. For businesses, particularly businesses with one or two employees, it is necessary to have a trusted associate have your sign-in information. If the business is going to continue you will not want accounts, such as Twitter, deactivated.
Granted not many of us want to consider the hour of our demise, but most are coming to realize that funeral pre-planning is a good way to ease the way for our survivors, or to at least make sure that our final wishes are carried out.
The same can be said with internet pre-planning.
Make sure you have accounts and passwords listed somewhere, and then make sure that list is kept with your executor or funeral home. Also make sure to periodically update those lists, since we always end up with new accounts, or password changes.
Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and Pinterest accounts are not normally high on the list of priorities when you are considering your final wishes. However, social media now effects every part of our lives and businesses, and in a three part series I will look at how it can impact the survivors.
I will grant that as a discussion topic this was far from my thoughts; at least not until I found myself reading a Facebook memorial service for an acquaintance. She and I had only reconnected on social media a few months past, and not soon after I noted a post where she said she was having a minor medical procedure done. Then came a flurry of sympathy posts for her passing, and her sister turned the deceased's Facebook page into a memorial site.
The end result of this was I ended up interviewing the owners of Butler Funeral Home about how the funeral industry was handling social media.
The first thing that Mr. Butler said was that whatever the medium used the human impulse to share news, and to give support, doesn't change. However, that with social media the spread of the news has sped up. He mentioned that this is something that families might want to take into consideration when using social media to announce a passing.
When death happens there is a desperate need to reach out to the living, and in telling of the death to try to deal with the reality. Smart phones, laptops, and tablets make it far easier to reach out to friends and acquaintances, but the speed of communication sometimes out runs more traditional means. Mr. Butler said they have heard of families who heard about a death on Facebook before the official call came.
The speed of interaction can also be a blessing for those directly involved, because it does allow of nearly instantaneous outpouring of sympathy, and help. It is also a way to share out funeral arrangements, and funeral homes are helping with this by linking obituaries to their social media.
The Facebook accounts, and other social media, can also offer a place to share memories, which is particularly helpful for friends and acquaintances that can't be there in person. And if desired that page can be turned into a permanent tribute to the deceased.
Cathy Mosley brings her 26 years of storytelling and writing experience to the realm of Social Media. To help small businesses.