Facebook Immortality Desired as an Online Afterlife

The Harris Poll survey also found that 69 percent of young Americans believe online banking and financial accounts are their most important digital assets to protect.

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Social media users are divided on just how to handle their online afterlife.

Thirty percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 30 dislike Facebook’s recently-announced legacy contact policies. Another 38 percent like them, according to a Harris Poll survey of 2,009 adults, ages 18 to 30.

A slight majority (51 percent) of respondents would choose to have their account deleted by an appointed legacy contact, while 31 percent would allow their contact to memorialize their accounts. Another 29 percent want their photos, posts and profile information downloaded and archived.

"Human beings naturally want to leave expressions of themselves for those who follow," Charley Moore, founder and CEO of Rocket Lawyer, the company that sponsored the survey, told eWEEK. "Even though Millennials are still at the beginning of their lives and not planning for their own mortality yet, they are creating, perhaps, the richest set of archives of everyday life more than ever before with their social media posts. When the topic of legacy does arise, it often may be the millennial starting the conversation with their parents and grandparents about what the elder generation wants to do with their online information."

The survey also found that 69 percent of respondents believe online banking and financial accounts are the most important digital assets to protect, while 33 percent believe email accounts are most important, followed by e-commerce accounts (15 percent), social media accounts (13 percent) and digital videos (6 percent).

However, digital assets appear to be falling to the wayside, as 86 percent of Americans have digital assets, but only 13 percent have appointed a digital executor--a person to manage them after they die.

“In general, people don't want to lose rights to access their family photographs, but the idea of the Cloud being a space where generations down the line can access a life's journey is tremendously powerful and compelling," Moore said. "There is a tendency to want to narrate or curate the digital repository for future generations, leaving behind what is typically called one's best self."

Moore explained that for some people, arranging their digital assets and putting them into the hands of a capable executor can be a substantial part of preserving their estate.

Of the 36 percent of Americans who have a will in place, 70 percent have not appointed a digital executor.

"Everything that can be digitized, will be digitized,” Moore said. As a result, the economic, social and emotional value of digital assets will grow, he said.

"Faced with the same competing demands of legacy, reputation and inheritance, it’s only natural that we will need our estate planning system to keep pace. In fact, it is keeping pace, with companies from Google, to Facebook, to Rocket Lawyer and others working to keep up with this change."