It's the question that nobody really thinks of as in the face of death (quite understandably) your online profiles fall to the wayside. But what does happen to the digital persona you spent time constructing after you die?
The obvious questions arise at first. Whether you'd rather want your profile to continue online existence forevermore or to elect a "digital executor" to take the lead in removing your online footprint? The policies are rather simple and common sensical in their solutions:
- Your family and friends can contact Twitter directly with details of their relationship to you, your username & obituary, and download a copy of your public tweets for safe-keeping before deleting the account.
- With Facebook, the options are more diverse. Your family still require your username and password; but they'll be stuck with the decision of whether to deactivate, delete, download or memorialise your profile.
Life Insurance Finder explore these topics via their Infographic project into the area, noting that you should form a digital will and get yourself a "digital executor" (sounds like a pretty nifty hacker name). Three Facebook users die every second, meaning that 1,780,000 accounts will be in limbo by the end of 2011. In some cases the data stored upon these networks (be it anything from photo albums down to even the status posts themselves) could hold the same sentimental value as tangible property, and thus should be treated in the same fashion. You also have the continuation of your digital legacy to take into account: having someone duly noted to continue your work as an online influencer. It's all a realisation that even though it may not take precedence in moments of death, this digitally curated version of the self is still apparent.
But then the discussion takes a controversial turn. You have these collections of data all about yourself: your personality traits, the way you talk, what you like and don't like. Maybe this could be utilised to metaphorically slap creationism in the face.
Namely, your digital resurrection.
Pieces of software are already in place to create an AI version of you based off your social media updates to communicate with. The results, however off-kilter at times, can lead to some pretty scary times. This can be my next tweet is one example that's still a little rusty, and Hunch is a pretty simple structure of guessing your answer based off complex algorithm analysis of your social communications.
Could this lead to a complete digital recreation of yourself (which is what is purported in the above video)? We doubt it: no matter what is put in place, however sophisticated the technology becomes, a dead person is still dead, and the idea of a digital resurrection is just disrupting whatever grief the human being needs. It's a prosthetic option that wouldn't help the human psyche. But you can't help but be fascinated by the almost sci-fi esque possibilities of this.
Life Insurance Finder have also built an infographic detailing an illustrated guide for preparing for death (kind of grim, I know but bare with me below), and their project exploring what happens online after you die is available via the source link.
I am the Founder and Editor-in-chief of New Rising Media. You can follow me on Twitter @MrJasonEngland.