Facebook is already a part of the lives of more than a billion people. Now it wants to be part of their afterlife, too.
On Thursday morning, Facebook announced it will let users designate a "legacy contact": someone who, after a user's death, can post messages to the user's timeline, respond to friend requests and update the account's profile picture and cover photo. Facebookers can opt to let the legacy contact download an archive of photos and posts shared, but the person won't be able log in as the deceased user or access any private messages. Facebook users can also tell the company they want their accounts permanently deleted after they die.
Facebooking from beyond the grave may sound bizarre, but the new policy comes after the company spent years struggling to figure out what to do with users' accounts after they venture off into the great beyond. Previously, Facebook "memorialized" deceased users' accounts, making the profiles viewable but not accessible by anyone. This upset family members in some cases, and Facebook said those conversations inspired the new feature: "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."
Interested? Go to your Facebook page's settings, click "Security," and at the bottom of the page you'll see an option to edit your legacy contact. There you can opt to delete your Facebook account after death or select a friend to be your social media executor.
You can opt to send the legacy contact a message right away that explains the new feature and concludes: "Since you know me well and I trust you, I chose you. Please let me know if you want to talk about this." Quite the conversation starter.
-- Julianne Pepitone