The announcement of Terry Pratchett's death on Twitter shows why you need a social media will

Vale Sir Terry Pratchett. Photo: Oli Scarff/Getty Images

One of the world’s greatest authors and satirists, Sir Terry Pratchett, died overnight at his Wiltshire home in the UK. He was just 66.

For the past eight years, Pratchett lived with an “embuggerance” – the name he gave his rare form of Alzheimer’s disease.

Pratchett wrote more than 70 books and, until the JK Rowling phenomenon, was the UK’s most successful author, selling 85 million books globally in 37 languages.

His last book, a new Discworld novel, was finished last English summer.

His death is an enormous loss to anyone who loves to laugh at the world. Pratchett skewered our foibles with wit and elan.

But his passing is also a lesson in how to deal with that final moment in the age of social media. You need to have a plan to let your friends and followers know what you can no longer tell them.

You could say “I’m just going out for a walk and it may be some time until my next tweet”, but few of us get to predict our demise. Even if we know the end is coming, we’re otherwise occupied moving towards the light, even Pratchett, an advocate for euthanasia.

So we need a social media will, or at least to have a conversation, including passwords, with someone who can take over Facebook, Twitter, Instagram et al for what the Australian poet Les Murray called “last hellos”.

Last month Facebook released an option called a “legacy contact” someone authorised to manage your account when you die. Around 30 million profiles already live on after their owner’s departure.

Others, such as Twitter, make you jump through a lot of hoops to gain access for deactivation only.

The final four tweets on Pratchett’s twitter account are a perfect farewell: two tweets that set up the scenario of his demise in a typically Pratchett fashion, then a link to a statement on his death and like all great stories: the end.

With apologies to Shakespeare: nothing in his afterlife became him like the arriving in it.

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