Anna Burgess Yang

Tinkering With Ideas #011: You, from the beyond

Published about 1 year ago • 2 min read

Hi Reader 👋 -

Happy Thursday. I went to my son's choir concert last night. I loved choir when I was in school, so seeing him perform (and seeing his excited face!) was amazing. Major kudos to the music director for wrangling 100 fourth and fifth graders.

1) Reflection:

A few days ago, a friend-of-a-friend was killed in a freak accident. Even though it was someone I'd never met, I was sad as I read the stories my friend told about his life. A beautiful soul, gone in a moment.

I already had the topic for this newsletter planned. In the immediacy, death brings so many emotions. Memories. Condolences.

But we don't often think about "What comes after?" — unless you're the surviving loved one. It can be a logistical nightmare between a will/trust, packing up belongings and — an even less-talked about problem — what happens to your online presence and accounts.

My grandma passed away in December of 2020. She had a Facebook account (!) as a way to stay connected with her family. I knew that the dormant account was at risk for being hacked. So I contacted Facebook. It was actually an easy process to show her obituary and get the account shut down.

But that was one account. I've thought many times about the vast number of accounts I have and what a burden it could be for someone to sort through.

There are a few things you can do to make this easier for your loved ones.

2) Product:

Every site has different requirements for shutting down an account after someone dies. Sometimes you can assign designated Legacy Contacts. Other times, you might need to only show an obituary. And the worst case would be an insane back-and-forth, providing a death certificate, or somehow trying to "prove" that your loved one died.

An easier way is to use a password manager and simply give the credentials to a new person. But how can you do this without handing over your master password while you're still alive?

I use LastPass, which has the ability to generate one-time passwords that can access the account. I printed several of these and put them in a fireproof safe in our home (where we also store fun stuff like passports, birth certificates, etc).

I gave my legacy contact the PIN to the safe and said, "If I'm dead, here's what you need to access important docs."

That keeps my passwords protected because the only way my legacy contact would ever be going into that safe is if I'm no longer in this world. And with the emergency passwords, she'll be able to access my password manager and my accounts.

3) Tip:

On the topic of social accounts, do you ever think about preserving your data?

What if Twitter shuts down tomorrow? (Which seems increasingly likely...) Would you be sad that you no longer have access to your tweet history? Or would you not care?

I'd care. I feel like it's part of my online writing, the same as my blog or other work.

I've started downloading my social media archives regularly. It only takes a few minutes (usually somewhere in the security settings). Then I add the archive to my GDrive. I set a reminder (using Todoist) to do this once a quarter.

PS: If you want a tip for using your LinkedIn archive to create social posts, check out this thread I wrote.

More Resources:

That's it for this issue of Tinkering! See you again in two weeks.


Anna Burgess Yang


P.S. If you're enjoying this newsletter, please forward to a friend. Sharing is caring. Or you can buy me a coffee and fuel my writing habit.

Anna Burgess Yang

Writer. Productivity geek. Always tinkering.

I share tips, tools, and resources to make your daily life a bit easier.

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