So, bit of a morbid topic, but really interesting (to me at least) is what will happen to my digital presence once I die? Probably not something we think of often, but once you start to it really opens up a series of tough questions that don’t have right answers.
The short answer is: whatever you have instructed your loved ones to do with them. But this implies that you left instructions. How many of the estimated 50 million deceased Facebook profiles belong to someone who had thought about their wishes for their account upon their demise? Who knows, there isn’t that kind of data available.
Facebook does offer the ability to “memorialize” a Facebook profile. This is the ability to contact Facebook and have the account preserved in the way that can be seen by others, but is unable to post statuses and be logged into. This is an interesting idea – as the Facebook profile of a person can be used as a “virtual gravestone” to leave messages and ease the grieving process, without the added creepiness of being invited to a funeral by the deceased (yes, this has happened)
The families of deceased social media users might be able to choose whether to delete the account or have it memorialized, but everyone else who’s “friends” with the account just has to go along with it. It’s all very well and good to leave a profile for those who wish to visit, but what if things started showing up in your newsfeed? Or worse, promoted posts! Facebook states that this can’t happen once the account is memorialized, but there’s a help section dedicated to it – so we can assume it’s not an exact science. Conversely what if you were enjoying seeing posts or visiting the page of a lost loved one and the family have it deleted? Would this affect the way you grieve?
There are apps currently in development for the purpose of continuing your social interactions after your death. This is taking it to a whole new level! The only sort of person we think might actually want posting on their behalf from beyond would be celebrities or thought leaders who lived off their brand. Say for example – there might not be too much wrong with John Lennon posting a status reminding us of an album release anniversary, but tweeting from my account after I die is not something I would be interested in.
We think that in the future, people will need to be more conscious of instructing their loved ones on what they would like done with their accounts once they are gone, so their wishes are carried out. Social networks and other digital entities must start adding features to deal with this as the world becomes more digital and we process the deaths of more than 150,000 people worldwide daily. And what happens in 2065 (provided Facebook is still around) when the estimated amount of Facebook ghosts outnumbers the living?
See what others have said on this subject:
How Stuff Works Article
image: DAN SHAFFER, WEBPAGEFX via Mashable