The reading by Jed Brubaker, Gillian Hayes, and Paul Dourish, “Beyond the Grave: Facebook as a Site for the Expansion of Death and Mourning,” explored the ways that the living interacts with the dead on Facebook. Since Facebook also owns Instagram, I decided to look at the way that Instagram memorializes accounts.
Interestingly, they are very explicit about their policies. On the page entitled “What happens when a deceased person’s account is memorialized?” they what the features of a memorialized account. These accounts don’t look any different from regular accounts, and all of the posts the deceased person shared will still be visible. In order to memorialize an account, living users have to contact Instagram with proof of death, such as “a link to an obituary or news article.” Instagram also won’t release the login credentials of a deceased person, but they will allow someone who proves that they’re an immediate family member of the deceased to have an account removed from the site.
I think that the distinctions between a memorialized account and a regular one are very intesting. Memorialized accounts won’t appear in the “explore” page, and no changes can be made to it (including comments and followers). In this way, Instagram seems to be trying to preserve the deceased’s virtual image that they curated before their passing.
Despite all of the procedures required to memorialize an account, things still seem to go wrong occasionally. The help page “My Instagram profile has been memorialized.” helps users who have been incorrectly (or morbidly, prematurely) memorialized by Instagram. Personally, I can hardly imagine how uncanny it would be to log in to Instagram and found out that you have been deemed dead.