The Legacy Contact… Planning a Digital Afterlife?
If you haven’t already heard, Facebook has released a new updated feature to its popular social networking site – a Legacy Contact.
Facebook describes the legacy contact as “someone you choose to look after your account if its’ memorialized.” This contact has the option to “share a final message on your behalf or provide information about a memorial service, respond to new friend requests, and even update your profile picture.” You are able to name a legacy contact, or choose to have your profile completely deleted after you’ve passed away.
We’ve all seen it before: a loved one passes away and their Facebook page is flooded with pictures and posts. Facebook considers this a memorialization of this person’s page. If you choose to select a legacy contact, your page will have a “Remembering” label before your name. What Facebook is instilling, is for the legacy contact to see to it that this page is still managed. Is this necessary? Personally I don’t think so, but apparently Facebook does.
I see both sides of the story.
This feature could be useful, for example, for a parent of a child who passed away and they want their child’s memory to live on. But on the other side, doesn’t this seem a bit superficial as it is on a social networking site? Is that what it’s all about, so you can be remembered on Facebook? I don’t believe so, but I know there are people who believe otherwise.
The next point I’d bring up is when do you decide to assign a legacy contact and who do you choose? This is a big decision – you’re practically making a will for Facebook. My first thought would be to choose one of my sisters or best friends, but why would I want to put this emotional burden on them. I don’t want them getting a notification every time someone has posted something on my wall, to further remind them of my passing. I wouldn’t want to pass this burden on to them. Also, once you’ve chosen a legacy contact, that person can’t delegate the task to someone else.
And secondly, when do I choose and assign my legacy contact? Do I have this morbid conversation with my family, sit them down, and announce who my Facebook legacy contact will be? It all seems a bit artificial to me and I think my family would agree. I believe if people want to use my Facebook page as a way to remember me, I’d personally want it to be left exactly how it is when I passed; that’s truly the only way you can assure that your “Facebook personality” will be as authentic as can be.
So, did Facebook make a smart decision to create this feature? Personally I don’t believe it’s necessary but from other blogs I’ve read, it seems this is a need and want for a feature like this. This feature isn’t created for the deceased in question, but more for grieving family and loved ones. Facebook stated in their press release “Our team at Facebook is grateful and humbled to be working on these improvements. We hope this work will help people experience loss with a greater sense of possibility, comfort and support.” Maybe it’s just me but this all seems a bit superficial. I don’t believe when I pass away that the first thing my family and friends are going to be concerned about is how my Facebook page will be remembered.