As social media users, we must consider our online behaviors, remembering that whatever we post or reshare is forever “alive” in the digital space. But what happens to users’ social media footprint after they’ve passed? Twitter is in the process of removing the plethora of its inactive accounts, which are accounts that have not been used or logged into for six months or more. An updated number of the total inactive accounts has not yet been shared by Twitter, but in 2014, The Inquirer reported this figure to be upwards of 430 million.

The problem with removing these accounts, however, is that some of them belong to deceased users, whose loved ones don’t want their photos or tweets deleted. As a result, the company has temporarily halted its plans to remove inactive Twitter accounts until it can develop a way to memorialize those who have passed. When Twitter is able to circle back and delete those inactive accounts, it’ll free up previously used usernames—and space for more users. However, Twitter also cautions that users may see the number of followers drop as a result of the account deletions.

Facebook has already created a way to maintain the pages of the deceased: the deceased’s former page serves as a “living” memory; a place where friends and family can post and share memories. Facebook only permits this function if approved by an immediate family member of the deceased, who may request the account to be memorialized or deleted by submitting Facebook’s Special Request for Deceased Person’s account form. All that’s needed is the deceased’s full name, email, date of death and Facebook timeline URL. Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, offers a similar option, though a bit more lenient. Anyone can request an Instagram account be memorialized, but the memorialized account has the same appearance as an active account. Privacy settings also cannot be changed. In addition to Twitter, lagging behind without a memorialization option are Snapchat and YouTube.


Danielle Renda is associate editor of PPB.