Facebook figures out what to do with profiles after we die, which needed to happen

Ever wonder what happens with a Facebook profile if the person who created it passes away? Well, now we have an answer.

Facebook just launched a new feature called Legacy Contact, that lets users choose a friend or family member to take ownership of their account if the user dies. The “contact” can’t continue posting on behalf of the deceased, but their ownership becomes like curating a memorial: They can pin posts on the timeline, respond to new friend requests, or update the profile or cover picture. (Don’t worry — they can’t see the deceased’s messages.)

This isn’t Facebook’s first step to address the uncomfortable reality that roughly 8,000 Facebook users die every day. Facebook launched a memorial service in 2009, which locks a deceased user’s profile and turns it into an enduring shrine, to which users can still send wall posts or private messages.

Locking the account didn’t turn out to be the best solution because it froze many aspects of profiles that friends and family might not want to remember a person by (i.e. really dumb or Solo-cup-filled profile pictures). These locked accounts could receive wall posts and private messages, but other than that no other additions or subtractions could be made — the situation was limiting. With more than 30 million profiles locked in this limbo, it was starting to be a problem that no one could opt for the profile to be changed or deleted after death.

Now, Facebook says that “by talking to people who have experienced loss, we realized there is more we can do to support those who are grieving and those who want a say in what happens to their account after death.”

To facilitate the mourning process, Facebook will now add “Remembering” above the person’s name on the profile, and allow the legacy contact to pin updates about memorial services or other information on the top of the page. And you can even opt to let your legacy contact download an archive of their photos and posts to remember you by — kind of like an instant photo album. Essentially, Facebook allows the page to become an organized place of mourning.

If the whole idea of surviving online after you die freaks you out, users can also opt to have their Facebook account deleted in the event of their death. Either way, you can choose how you want your profile handled under your Security Settings, then Legacy Contact. With the online world becoming more and more a part of our entire world, it only makes sense that we have to address some of these never-before-dealt-with issues. It’s hard not to feel weird talking about what happens to our Facebooks after we die, but it’s also just another reality of living in the Internet age.

Image via Facebook Newsroom

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