A depressing-but-necessary step to living
By Sharon Miki, Contributor
We’re all going to die, eventually. How will you be remembered? Five years after you’ve gone, will your friends and family look back on your life fondly, or will they be forced to subsist on your jokey profile picture, stupid tweets, and vaguebookey status updates?
Social media is weird and wonderful and terrible in many ways, but—if you are active in it—it creates a way for your friends, family, and acquaintances to see you when you aren’t around. This ubiquity of self does not end when you take your last breath. For the sake of your life’s legacy and those you love, take steps to use it for good when you’re gone. One important move you can (and really should) take today is to create a legacy contact on your Facebook account.
Facebook recently unveiled a new security feature called the “legacy contact.” While living, you can select one trusted Facebook friend to be this person; upon notification of your death, your legacy contact will have the power to update your profile and cover photo, respond to friend requests, and write one last pinned post on your profile (they won’t have access to your private messages, or be able to post forevermore as you). This seems like a lot of responsibility, but it’s actually the most useful thing on Facebook. What this means is that someone you love and trust can take the reins and leave your page as you would want it if you had known that your last post would be your … last. This is as important to your online legacy as a will is to your physical and monetary legacy.
A brief example: a few years ago an old friend of mine passed away quite suddenly in a car accident. We hadn’t spoken in a while and when I heard the news, I spent hours doing what I believe most modern grievers do—I scoured her Facebook profile, looking for clues. Was she happy, in the end? What were her last days like? Was she loved? I looked for old pictures of us, to solidify now-hazy memories. It was, and is, very sad. Her life was full, but too short. Now, years later, a family member seems to have taken access to the account, and occasionally makes posts on her behalf, under her name. While I believe that this is that person’s good-intentioned way of remembering her, every time I see a new picture of her on my feed, my heart swells, and then sinks again. It hurts, but I will never unfriend “her”; I can’t bring myself to sever my one remaining link.
With this in mind, I would never want my virtual ghost to haunt the people I love, but I do want to ensure that my kin have a way to find me if they need me. In days past, people used to save obituaries and magnet those sad scraps of paper to the fridge. Today, and in the future, our best way of being remembered will be online.
Mortality is universal. When we’re young, we all think that we will live forever. Hopefully something will happen, and we will live forever; but, if not, we need to have a plan—just in case. Choose someone you trust, someone who will put a picture of you at your most beautiful; choose someone who will remember you.