Thursday 07, December 2017 by Jessica Combes

Is your social media persona immortal?


With more than one billion Facebook users globally and more than 500 million daily users on Instagram, it is logical that each day thousands leave their social media accounts unattended after they have passed away.

Some social media channels offer a ‘legacy’ option that allows users to pick who would look after their account in the event of their death, but not everyone is comfortable being memorialised.

In a recent poll, the DIFC Wills & Probate Registry (the Registry) asked how UAE residents want to protect their digital footprint and social media legacy. More than half of respondents (53 per cent) have thought about what happens to their digital footprint once they pass away, while an overwhelming majority (89 per cent) would wish their social media account to be deactivated. The Registry’s findings challenge a 2016 research report by the University of Massachusetts which produced the startling statistic that, based on current Facebook trends, profiles of late users would outnumber living users by 2098.

Just under half (42 per cent) of those questioned, said they consider their digital footprint as an asset, whilst a quarter of the respondents said they would include their social media accounts in a Will or succession plan. This suggests that thinking through what happens to your social media accounts has become a significant consideration for succession, alongside property or financial assets.

“In a world where many spend as much time online as offline, it makes sense that we should consider how we pass on all of our assets, including digital. This highlights just how important it is for individuals to think about what happens to their prized possessions. We strongly encourage individuals to start their life admin so that their assets, including digital and physical, are handled according to their wishes after death,” said Sean Hird, Director, DIFC Wills & Probate Registry.

For those wishing to hand over their social media assets, partners ranked as the person they would trust to run their social media as ‘legacy’ pages. On the other hand, nearly one-in-two would not wish to give access to their mums, even when they’re no longer around to be embarrassed.

“Passing on social media account details is similar to some of the practical aspects of making a Will. This may include ensuring your beneficiaries have access to important details and passwords,” Hird added.

To prepare people for the unexpected, Friends Provident International (FPI) has published a guide titled A matter of life and death, which helps expatriates and their advisors consider the implications of an untimely demise.

“With the continuous evolution of technology, an individual’s online usage has become a part of their daily life admin. Whether for social media or business purposes, there are multiple accounts that we administer, and we encourage users to make a note of any online accounts, which can then be left with a trusted family member or friend,” said Philip Cernik, Chief Marketing Officer, FPI. 

Whilst including your social media assets is not a service available at the Registry–there are ways that you can take care of tomorrow and manage your social media legacy.



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