When it's time to say goodbye

Illustration © Tim Teebken

When you're in your twenties, you'll live forever. You're the center of the universe. You are invincible!

But for some strange reason, one day shortly after I’d started my design business, something in the obituaries caught my eye and I began to read. As a young adult in my early 20s, it occurred to me these people were now gone, and reading about them in the obits was undoubtedly the last chance I would have to ever cross that person’s path. I was “meeting” them shortly after they'd departed.

A social media friend once told me she'd asked her niece to contact me in case anything ever happened to her. And it made me think about my own relationships with friends on Twitter and other social media channels. Some are people I regard fondly, and I would want to know if something happened to them. And in turn, I would want them to know if something happened to me. Do most of us have some sort of plan in place?

Local notices include the people in our own back yards. But so many friendships can now span continents, and I didn't think there was a great way to keep track. If someone dies in Seattle at 2 AM Friday, it's still Thursday night in Hawaii and 10 PM Friday night in Sydney. Like the online celebration of birthdays or #FollowFriday, the time of death seems to vary by time zones.

Last week an acquaintance on Empire Avenue suddenly expired. We never met in real life though he lived within an hour of Seattle. It made me think there is no place to post a social media obituary. So I started to investigate and came up with a few interesting articles:

The articles above led to the following sites that appear to deal with various aspects of letting your social media friends know when you are gone:
  • LivesON - keeps tweeting after you've passed away
  • ifIdie: An application that enables you to create a video or text message that will only be published after you die.
  • DeadSoci.al - allows you to create messages to be released once we have gone.

As I’ve grown older, I find I spend less time reading obituaries. Perhaps it’s because I’m seeing more and more people I recognize, particularly from my parents' generation.

The reality is, social media is part of our lives now. I don't think tweeting after death would be for me, but a notification of SOME sort seems reasonable.

It is hoped each of us will leave a legacy through our impact on others, meaningful accomplishments, and the positive thoughts that are remembered. I've asked myself, if I were to die tomorrow, am I satisfied with the life I've led so far?

The answer would be "yes."

What would you hope your social media obituary would say about you?

Illustration © Tim Teebken


  1. Chinneo7:28 AM

    Terri, The subject on death is what makes many people like me uncomfortable and most of us would like to simply avoid talking about it. I feel that you have written what i have been thinking about myself all along and just wanted to share a few lines

    It is a very good observation when you said “ I was “meeting” them shortly after they'd departed.” That is true in a way. It is ironic that there are times when people we get to know are only after they die.

    Lately, it makes me really think when i read or hear about someones death. That they were actually people whom i laughed or spent time with and not someone i never knew, like i read in the papers years ago when i was younger.

    It makes me realize that finally one day i will also be the people i am talking about now. And I ask myself “how many visits do i need to make to the grave before i am there myself” . Life is a paradox.

    Tweeting after death is also not for me. I feel it is important to live your life while you are living and that is more important than making all kinds of effort to be alive after you are gone. But i guess we all have our own views.

    Nevertheless,if i were to die tomorrow i am confident in saying 'yes' i am satisfied with the life i have led so far. Thankful for everything around me and meeting thoughtful friends like you.

    I wish you well Terri!

    Warm regards, Chinneo

    1. Dear Chinneo,

      First, my gratitude for your thoughtful comment. This topic has been on my mind for a number of years. I actually began writing this blog post nearly four years ago, then shelved it because I couldn't decide where I was going with it. Perhaps to anyone reading now, it still seems to be the case! :-)

      I've often said, it seemed to take forever to reach the age of 21 (legal age to drink in the U.S.), then each year following zips by until one day you walk past a store window, see a reflection and wonder how in the world the old person you see could possibly be YOU.

      I do think some sort of international online obituary could be useful. However, tweeting after death sounds ridiculous to me. But to each their own!

      Living to old age truly is a blessing, and one I hope for both of us. (A much shorter journey for me!)

      Warm ((HUGS))) and sending best wishes to you, too!


  2. eleanor Jodway1:29 AM

    An Interesting post. I think that We all engage in thoughts to some degree or other; on this subject. I have Friends and Family members who still have open FB accounts; but are no longer with Us.

    Ewww, ewww....and Triple EWWWW, to Tweeting from the grave! I find the very thought, morbid. I do however think that a good-bye video, is kind of nice for the people You leave behind. I wish that I had one of some of those who have gone before Me. I shot a short one of My Father last August as He was in His last days. And, I am happy to have it and be able to hear his voice....see His face.

    An online obituary would be a good choice. And while on the subject....I think Social sites should make it easier to delete the accounts of those who have passed on!

    Always nice to find one of Your infrequent posts in My email T!

    1. Dear Ellie,

      Really great to see you here and thank you for reading and commenting.

      I totally agree, tweeting after death is just WRONG. It's hard to imagine that site has any customers!

      I'm not sure why it's difficult to delete an account. I would imagine the next of kin would have the legal right to handle it. But rather than delete it, if it could remain static, it would really freeze in time their existence online.

      I once knew someone who committed suicide. It was such a shock to everyone, and so, so sad. I remember calling the phone number to listen to the voice on the outgoing message just to hear it one last time.

      A good-bye video could be comforting to view, although having a video of a loved one while they were healthy and strong appeals more to me. Possibly it is also how many would like to be remembered?

      Here's hoping all is well with you, Ellie! And thanks again for your thoughtful comments!



  3. You have enlightened very sesitive topic , I felt my goosebums while reading this post

    1. Hello DDA,

      Many thanks for reading and leaving a comment.

      It means a lot to know you've taken the time to do so!

      Wishing you well and thank you again!

      Best regards,


  4. Hi Terri - At one time or another we will all think about our virtual online lives. How will we manage them after we are gone? One friend who passed last month has a close friend tweeting for him. I think they must have decided to keep his memory and activism alive by continuing to air his messages, although I don't know for sure.

    You give me pause to think how I will handle the many social networks in that future event. I would like the legacy of my positive thoughts and creative writing to be available to online readers. People could certainly do a 'search' to find those articles and blogs. It seems the SEO as it is now requires continual activity to bring new readers. My "pre-posted" tweets would go live as scheduled, but I doubt I would have someone continue to add new tweets.

    The consideration of removing and shutting down the twitter stream might be a possibility. Just a thought. Although, the tweets are also part of the total legacy and history of our conversations together.

    Blessings to you and be well,

    1. Dear Debby,

      I'm so honored you stopped by to leave a comment. Thank you very much!

      With the exception of pre-scheduled content, it seems like a social media account should be arrested when someone passes away.

      However, if SEO for old blog posts is a consideration, it's possible to schedule an unending cycle of tweets to promote them.

      I've been beta testing an application called SMQUEUE. One of the great features is the option to create a "recurring queue," where pre-loaded content will fill pre-determined time slots in perpetuity until you delete or replace it. I suppose if someone died suddenly, whatever is in that recurring queue would repeat forever, including tweets leading to one's blog posts!

      It's an interesting quandary and one that will be more and more germane as time goes on.

      Here's hoping neither of us cross that bridge for a long, long time, and by the time we do, there is a good solution available!

      Wishing you well, and thank you again!




  5. Very Informative! This blog is great source of information which is very useful for me. Thank you very much for sharing this!

    Graphic Design

    1. Hi, Andrea!

      Thanks so much for your comment. It means a lot to know you found something of value!

      Wishing you a wonderful week ahead, and again, my appreciation for taking the time to read and respond!


  6. Hi, Terri!

    Very insightful piece! I believe this post answers a lot of questions in which many people would probably be hesitant to ask. I always wondered up until this point, how does social media sites addresses the aspect of it's user/member passing away. Your post definitely sheds light on the topic. Also, the idea having tweets sent out after your death, seems a bit morbid to me; that's just my thinking. This was very enlightening.

    All the best!


    1. Dear Ralph,

      Thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading and commenting. In light of all that has gone on, these questions have resonated with me.

      I can't imagine anyone wanting to tweet after death, but I'm at the point where almost nothing surprises me. Social media seems to grow less and less social. I do wonder where it will all lead.

      You and your family are in my thoughts, Ralph. I'm sending my very best to you all, and again, my thanks to you for your friendship and the time you took to read and post a response.

      Warm regards, Terri

  7. Out of my 20's and still invincible! Just last year an attractive 22 year old friend tried to rib me about my age and I had to gently slap her down with 'I may be older, but I am in better shape than any of the guys your age you will ever date.' She looked a little stunned and her friend sadly shook her head in agreement and realization.
    It is attitude beyond all else that keeps us young, but does not stop the day coming when we will no longer be logging onto the net.
    I have thought about it, hoping my friends have the presence of mind to let everyone know I have passed, but it may be time to do something of a more certain nature.
    Thanks for the leads Terri!

    1. Dear Kev,

      Congrats for still being invincible! I feel the same way, but with friends passing on in recent years, it certainly makes one more aware of one's mortality.

      I love that you mentioned attitude. It's so true! For me, I feel as though I will mentally be 38 forever :-)

      After writing this post, I began to think seriously of what I would do, and have arrived at the decision that when I die, likely I will do nothing special with regard to social media. A few friends will be told, but otherwise all activity will cease and that will be that.

      So glad we have been social media buddies for so long. Thanks for being there!

      ((HUGS)) Terri

  8. Terri,

    My Dad died at the beginning of 2013 - he was 89 at the time and had lived a full life. Six years ago after my Mom died, he recorded an interview at StoryCorps detailing his life and times - the good and the bad and also a special message that he wanted to deliver to all of his family and friends after his death.

    At the celebration party after his death, I played the message for the gathering and everyone was extremely touched - the message was as timely as when it had been recorded 6 years prior. The delivery of the message though caught everyone (except a very close group of us who had helped in it's creation) quite by surprise - it was like a voice from the dead (literally) telling his story and his hopes for his family in the future.

    While I would not like to have Tweets to continue after I pass, the release of a special message would certainly be something that would be appropriate. I do not think that enough people give this any thought - in the final stage of life it is usually too late to give it the proper consideration. Since many of us have grown many relationships via social media I think it is a good idea to have a "final" message...


    1. Dear Marc,

      First I'd like to offer my sympathy for your loss. Eighty-nine is a very long life and I'm glad his was full and satisfying.

      StoryCorps is a truly amazing effort. I only learned of its existence last year. It's wonderful to know your father participated. It is a gift to have a part of him you can see and hear. And what a comfort to him to know his final expressions would be shared with those he loved!

      Tweeting after death is not something I would want to happen. But I think it would be worthwhile for anyone who engages in social media, to include a directive, asking a designated person to share a final post.

      My first Twitter friend who passed away died in 2010. His nephew posted a tweet to announce his death. It was so sad. I still visit his page every once in a while. The fact that we are still mutual follows makes me feel we are still somehow connected.

      Marc, my sincere thanks for reading and offering your thoughts here. I appreciate the time and effort you expended.

      Warm regards,


  9. Hello Terri,

    How are you ?

    A very good article.

    As a ego centric type, I would like to be remembered as long as possible by my family and amigos.
    In my opinion, the best place is in the virtual world that are social media.
    We have an local assiociative website, which contain a memorial, since 2009.
    I think most of us need to remember beloved and appreciated people.
    A virtual world would help to prolong life itself.


    1. Dear Philippe,

      Hello and I hope you are well. Here in Seattle we're enjoying an amazing summer so far.

      Since so much content is now on the Internet, having a presence on the web in some form makes sense.

      Being remembered by those who know us is something I think we would all hope to happen. I suppose it has to do with how we live our lives, and how we connect with others.

      Thanks very much for taking the time to read and comment. I wish you well!


  10. Hi Terry,

    Life is a temporary playground, where we interact learn and leave behind a part of us in the memories of the ones we loved. We often take things/life for granted, and yet we don't have control of what lies around the corner. As a Muslim, I am asked to remind my self of Death many time a day. This enables me to appreciate the gift of life that I have, and also to VALUE the influence/input of others in my well being and existence.

    I hope, that we can leave behind nice warm memories, that people could remember us fondly, and say he/she was a good soul, And Glad to have known him/her.

    As far as Death Announcements/obituaries. The dear departed embarks on a new journey to the hereafter, and leaves all behind... That really is called moving on. And I guess, to them it does not matter. For the ones left behind, its a relief mechanism to to reconcile with the loss of their company.

    Thank you for a subtle reminder... and thought provoking post.

    Great Respect and Admiration for you Terri

    1. Dear Ali,

      Many thanks for reading and commenting. I don't know very much about the Muslim religion, but any religion that reminds us to appreciate life is doing something good.

      You're right in that most of us take good health for granted. It's only when something goes awry that many people take stock of their lives, and suddenly appreciate every moment.

      I don't know what happens after death. I like to think something dwells among those left behind. Memories do extend our time on earth, which is why I wrote this post dedicated to a friend who became homeless:


      Knowing he died without the awareness of family or friends, I wanted to do something to let people know he lived and died.

      Thank you again. I appreciate you very much.


  11. Anonymous10:51 PM

    Hi Terri,
    to deal with death is never easy. The time we can spent together will some day have an end. That is nature. To be born, to grow, to die. For me it is important to see the person who left us. To remember him (or her). To give him a place in my heart. I lost my little baby girl without being able to see her. She has a very special place in my heart. We must let them go to be able to free our soul.


  12. Annegret, I'm so sorry to read about your baby girl. I can't imagine the loss of a child. Each time we remember someone we've lost, I feel it brings their presence closer to us. So as long as someone is remembered, they're still here.

    I also think our social media connections can feel real. I think of you as my friend even though we've never met. I've learned about you and your life and your thoughts, and you've learned about mine. To me, we share a real friendship.

    When it comes to virtual friendships and acquaintanceships, the losses I've experienced have made me cry.


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i'm a graphic designer who loves words. - terri nakamura