Monday, March 10, 2014

When The Dead Want to Connect -- Removing A Colleague on Linked In and Other Social Media

Author's parents

It's an email that lingers in my memory years after I found it in my in-box.  "Carl wants to reach out to you!". The Carl in question had a Yahoo email account, and it was not Carl who had been on the account recently but rather his widow Sharon.  They used the same email but it was registered to him, one she did not change after his death in September of 2009.  Why would an email from so long ago still take up precious memory power today in 2014?  The Carl behind the email was my dad and his widow my mom.  He had only been dead for a few months when one day I find a cryptic email waiting for me.  Thanks Yahoo!

A similar yet less emotional social media ping hit my husband last week.  Going about his work week he was running through the hundreds of emails that tend to pile up.  Sitting there was one from LinkedIn encouraging him to congratulate a colleague on a work anniversary.  Sadly, the colleague had died suddenly a year before.  He was gone from the engineering world, but LinkedIn had no idea.

Curious about what to do, my husband searched around and found a discussion chain.  Sadly there is no one and obvious button to click to resolve this matter.  As pointed out, many of the young techies out there pioneering social media seem unaware that from birth, death will one day follow.  And sometimes the death is sudden, unexpected, and at far too young of an age.  If you are receiving messages on Linked In or other social media to connect with a now deceased colleague or friend, here are a few avenues to consider:
  • contact the family and friends to see if they will submit a death certificate to the company to have the account turned off;
  • alert the company of the death and underscore the general need to create a user policy that makes reporting deaths far easier than it is now;
  • create a folder or sub-circle of contacts who have passed and label it "deceased" -- I doubt this will translate to the main software, but it does allow you to make note of those who are no longer with us and may prevent you from inadvertently contacting them down the road should you have forgotten about their passing.
As I have blogged in the past, most tech companies do not allow the Personal Representative of an estate to turn off a social media page, but rather convert it to a memorial page.  With the sheer number of Baby Boomers on social media, in time, these policies will likely advance and allow loved ones to more easily turn off or make accountants dormant.  But it will take time.  

Earlier this year my mother entered hospice care. Her time was limited, and I used the Power of Attorney to turn off her cell phone.  I never anticipated how hard it would be, or the fact that the 20 something sales support person had no idea what the word "hospice" meant or the term "Baby Boomer".  He was nice, kind, and clearly impacted by the fact my mother was dying, but he was also a bit clueless about this element of life.  Time, it will take time for the young tech companies to grow up and plan for death.  For now, be patient, be creative, and make the most of your day.

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