Jonnie Irwin offers advice on ‘digital legacy’ people can leave after they die

TV presenter Jonnie Irwin has shared his advice for people who are unsure about what to do with their social media accounts once they die.

Irwin, who was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer two and half years ago, appeared on BBC Morning Live on Friday (3 February) to encourage people to take control of their digital legacy while they can.

A digital legacy refers to information that is available online about someone following their death. This can include their social media profile, digitally stored photographs or personal messages.

“I’ve got a lifetime of memories,” Irwin said in a voiceover. “And over the years, more and more of them have been stored online”

“And whilst I’ve been getting my affairs in order since my diagnosis two and a half years ago, I’ve not given much thought to my digital legacy,” he said, before explaining that he’s got thousands of photographs stored on his social media accounts.

“I’ve posted thousands of pictures and images online, but when I pass on, I’ve got no idea what will happen to those images, who will access them or even if they could be deleted and lost forever,” he explained.

According to Irwin’s findings, which were revealed on the show, more than 90 per cent of people in the UK have no plans for what would happen to their social media when they die.

On the programme, Irwin explored the concept of a “digital will” – where you state all of your accounts and what you want to happen to each of them when you die – and leaving video messages for loved ones to watch after you die.

“We’ve got to talk more about the end of our lives, online and in real life,” concluded Irwin.

Irwin, known for hosting Channel 4’s A Place In The Sun and BBC’s Escape To The Country, has been open about his illness and how it is affecting him and his family.

The 49-year-old shares three-year-old son Rex and two-year-old twins Rafa and Cormac with his wife Jessica.

In an interview with Hello! Magazine published on 14 November, Irwin said he’d decided to come public about his illness after learning that his lung cancer had spread to his brain.

“I don’t know how long I have,” he told the publication.

He said he first realised something was wrong in August 2020 when he experienced blurry vision while filming A Place in the Sun. “Within a week of flying back from filming” he said he was “given six months to live”.

“I had to go home and tell my wife, who was looking after our babies, that she was on her own pretty much,” he said, adding: “That was devastating. All I could do was apologise to her. I felt so responsible.”

Since his diagnosis, Irwin has been sharing regular updates with his followers about his health, as well as renovations he is working on at the family home.