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How to Memorialise or Remove a Facebook account of a dearly departed soul

How to Memorialise or Remove a Facebook account of a dearly departed soul

I repost this as I notice many folks have been asking similar questions on Facebook. We live such connected lives that it is even more difficult to let loved ones go. The digital connectedness keeps us one click away from constant joy and instant sorrow.
I was painfully reminded of this when my cousins, attorney James Bachoo and wife educator Joy struggled with the painful and tragic loss of their son Shivaan Bachoo in 2015. Shivaan joyously and joyfully attended and by all accounts presided over the wedding of his dear sister, Dinisha Bachoo. He gave her away to the humble Raees Khan.

A few hours later – his mission accomplished – as his grief-stricken parents told me, he was called away by God. Euphoria. Then abject sorrow. I watched and shared – in person and on social media – the outpouring of grief for this 27-year old lad and started thinking. What will happen to his Facebook account and what can we do to preserve a memory of this beautiful child, in the context of this modern digital world?

Jody Nair, friend and head of Business Against Crime, also passed away and each year his birthday reminder induces me to pause and reflect on this wonderful man. We add Farook Khan and Ebrahim Moola to this ever-increasing list. IT guys like me are generally incapable of sensible or even sensitive reaction to real-life situations so I was skeptical of success. I nonetheless researched this a bit.

It turns out that Facebook has an appropriate response when a family member passes away. They memorialise their account provided a family member or friend submits a request. If you’d like a loved one’s account to be memorialised, there is a process and a form to create this. Memorialised accounts are a place for friends and family to gather and share memories after a person has passed away.

Memorialised accounts have the following key features:
The word Remembering will be inserted next to the person’s name on their profile. Then depending on the privacy settings of the account, friends can share memories on the memorialised Timeline. Content that the person shared such as photos and posts will stay on Facebook and remain to the audience it was shared with.
Respectfully the memorialised profiles won’t appear in public spaces such as in suggestions for “People You May Know”, advertisements or birthday reminders. No one can log into a memorialised account. Your family can ask for additional storage space on Facebook for people to share memories of your loved one. Facebook even recommends creating a group as it keeps the appropriate circle of interested friends connected for this.

If however this process is too painful for you (or becomes painful later on) you may even request Facebook to remove their account all together. This is called deleting an account. You may want to do this due to a death, or incapacitation of a loved one. So if your friend or family member is mentally or physically unable to maintain their Facebook account, Facebook will be able to help you remove the account. Facebook will review the information you provide and let you know what action they can take.

You may also temporarily deactivate your account for any number of other temporary reasons such as extended leave. This option gives you the flexibility to leave and come back whenever you want. If you deactivate your account: People won’t be able to see the information on your Timeline on Facebook. People on Facebook will not be able to search for you. Some information, like messages you sent, may still be visible to others.
Facebook will save the information about your account. It will preserve your friends, photographs and interests, just in case you want to come back to Facebook at some point. If you choose to reactivate your account, the information on your profile will be there when you come back.

If however you permanently delete your account you will not be able to regain access to your account. Note that some of the things you do on Facebook aren’t stored in your account. For example, a friend who messaged you will still have a copy even after you delete your account.

It will take over a month to delete all of the things you’ve posted, like your photos, status updates or other data stored in backup systems. While Facebook is deleting this information, the account will be inaccessible to other people using Facebook.
Copies of some material for example a log of activities will remain in their database for technical reasons.

It was not my call to tell the Bachoo’s on what to do. It is however my moral duty to inform them and indeed all who experience a bereavement of the options. Please hug your child and tell them you love them. Rest in peace Shivaan you will be remembered as the treasure you are.

Dr Colin Thakur from Durban University of Technology is the InSeta Research Chair Digitalisation and the NEMISA e-Skills CoLab Director.

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