16 June 2015

The power of e-will

What happens to your online assets after you are gone? A look at the concept of digital inheritance.

Nethra* was a school friend. When I shook the small-town dust off my Batas and went away to a big-city college, we naturally lost touch. Five years later, a mutual friend called. “Did you hear? She passed away.” Within a few hours, my Facebook timeline was flooded with posts from her wall. Friends and cousins grieving; wishing she would come back; writing about how they missed her and were devastated… It’s been four years and her Facebook wall is still active. Only, now it is something of a digital shrine — friends and cousins posting about their achievements, admissions, new jobs, life events, writing birthday wishes, posting “remember when...” and “gone, but not forgotten” messages, and pictures — lots and lots of pictures.

“I feel connected to her when I post something on her wall. It’s a way to hold on to her; it’s like she may not be physically there, but I can still talk to her,” said a friend.

I see the same thing on Twitter; when a celebrity or someone known passes away, his/her handle is tagged in every tweet, as if each tweet were a personal shrine.

According to www.ifidie1st.com, the Facebook death count since August, 2012, is 82,72,258. Besieged no doubt with account activity similar to Nethra’s, the social media giant has come up with a new feature — Legacy Contact — in addition to its account memorialisation process, through which you can appoint a close friend and/or next of kin who will handle your account once it is “memorialised” after you pass away. The account will then become “Remembering *insert name*”. Then there’s If I Die, a Facebook app you can use to create a video or text message that will only be published after you die.

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