Thanks to Twitter's new policies, death is no longer the end — at least, not for avid tweeters.
In case of death, Twitter offers two options: family members can either request that the account be shut down, or they can turn it into a memorial of sorts, keeping the tweets archived just in case you want to reread them. To prevent against pranks, Twitter requests that family or friends of the deceased send them some proof that the intended tweeter is really dead:
Please contact us with the following information:
1. Your full name, contact information (including email address), and your relationship to the deceased user.
2. The username of the Twitter account, or a link to the profile page of the Twitter account.
3. A link to a public obituary or news article.
Once they have established proof of death, the Twitter staff will proceed as the family wishes. However, as CNN points out, there are some problems with this seemingly straight-forward policy.
To better illustrate the issues, both CNN and the LA Times compare Twitter to Facebook. Both allow for the removal of dead user's information and accounts, but on Facebook, the living death is a little more straight-forward. Unlike Twitter, Facebook shows that the owner of accounts are dead, and that the page is nothing more than a memorial. They allow friends to interact, leaving wall posts and messages, but they do not allow others to find the account through a search. They also, we assume, don't "suggest" you become friends with a deceased acquaintance.
Twitter, on the other hand, hasn't accounted for many of the weirder points of social media death. The zombie accounts will look the exact same - there is no easy way to tell that the tweeter has died. They also allow more people to "follow" the deceased, and even worse, it remains possible that the Twitter account could appear in the "who to follow" suggestion box. Theoretically, death could make you even more popular on Twitter, provided that the right person get wind of your account.
In some ways, this all seems so trivial, especially for those dealing with something as devastating as grief. However, it's also a necessary consideration, done to protect both the memory of the dead and the feelings of the family, which a "living dead" account may well do, provided that it's not abused. And while I can't imagine ever turning to Twitter for solace, there are certainly some people who need to reread the final tweets, or take another look at their "about me" section. In our increasingly internet-centric world, these virtual personalities are swiftly becoming as significant as our "real life" selves. We list our likes, our pet peeves, our daily movements and our most fleeting thoughts. They are projections, sure, but they're pieces of what we want to be seen as; they stand testimony to the people we want to be. Dead accounts may make for rather intangible tombstones, but they are also far more complete than any stone slab.
Twitter Details What Families Can Do With Accounts Of Deceased Users [LA Times]
Twitter's New Deceased-User Policy Vs. Facebook's [CNN]