Until recently a deceased person’s Facebook page was, in effect, locked down by Facebook once they were notified of the death. This meant that no new content could be posted, and he word Remembering was shown next to the person’s name on their profile. Depending on the privacy settings of the account, friends could share memories on the memorialized Timeline and content the person shared (ex: photos, posts) stays on Facebook and is visible to the audience it was shared with.
Facebook recently announced a new option called a “legacy contact” that is essentially someone who the account holder designates in advance as the curator or digital executor of their Facebook page. As described by Facebook, a legacy contact is someone you choose to look after your account if it’s memorialized. Once your account is memorialized, your legacy contact will have the option to do things like:
- Write a pinned post for your profile (ex: to share a final message on your behalf or provide information about a memorial service);
- Respond to new friend requests (ex: old friends or family members who weren’t yet on Facebook); and
- Update your profile picture and cover photo
You also have the option to allow your legacy contact to download a copy of what you’ve shared on Facebook but there are still limitations on their authority. Your legacy contact can’t:
- Log into your account;
- Remove or change past posts, photos and other things shared on your Timeline;
- Read messages you’ve sent to other friends; or
- Remove any of your friends
The key to this new feature is the appointment, in advance of death, of your legacy contact. It is a simple process. To add a legacy contact:
- Click in the top right of Facebook and select Settings
- In the left menu, click Security
- Click Legacy Contact
- Type in a friend’s name and click Add
- Click Message to let your friend know they’re now your legacy contact If your account is memorialized, your legacy contact will be notified.
The Help area of Facebook has more information about memorialization and how to add a legacy contact to your account. While this legacy contact concept may seem gloomy or distasteful to many, certainly those Facebook account holders with serious illnesses may want to consider appointing a trusted person to serve in this role to keep their legacy alive.