A few weeks ago a journalist interviewed me about life online and she asked how I have planned my digital afterlife. I want to share some of my thoughts with you.
Social media is a key part of our lives, and it is important to put plans in place about what you would like to happen to all your online accounts when you are gone. What happens to assets such as a house and car when you are not here any longer is pretty easy to manage, but digital assets are complex.
There are messages, photos and videos that we would like to share with the people left behind. There may be assets that should be deleted. When we are not here there is little we can do to control our online assets, and others may be able to do this for us without having access to our accounts.
I’ve read that an estimated 108 billion people have lived since the beginning of the human race. Right now there are approximately 7.35 billion people living together on this earth.
Every year 56 million people die. Now that approximately 40% of the world’s population has access to the internet, lots of online accounts are left behind.
You may not have shared any of your login details and passwords with anyone, and what’s left behind online will stay the way it is. This means that millions of people leave their online accounts as they are. Lots of people are added to the virtual graveyard.
Do you have a plan? Does anyone else have access to the passwords for your digital devices? Have you left the right kinds of posts, ideas and thoughts online for people to look at when they search for you online?
There are plenty of instances where relatives are left behind with no access to a phone or a computer.
I read about Colin and Sue Hehir who lost their son Morgan, and now they have no access to the content saved on his Apple computer. So far Apple has refused to give them access to the computer.
Depending on your culture you may be more open about sharing your passwords with others, and I would highly recommend that you do this with the people you trust.
Companies that produce digital devices do not build them thinking about what will happen after the owner’s death. It could be pretty easy to do that I would guess. Apple is releasing new updates all the time; why not add a question in the next one asking the device’s owner who Apple should contact if the person dies? And then make it possible for relatives to contact Apple after a relation’s death.
We are used to watching the funerals of celebrities on TV. Have you thought about whether you would like to live broadcast your own funeral? You have plenty of options with new tools such as Facebook Live. Everyone who cannot attend your funeral could watch it later, or people far away can follow it live.
Keep or delete?
I met a woman at a conference who told me she wants all the traces of her online to be deleted the day she passes away. If she organised all her accounts in a smart way and share all the details with her family and trusted friends this is possible. Many social media companies are not that easy to deal with if you don’t have access to login details and passwords.
I started to think about what I should do with my online accounts when I talked to my parents about what they wanted to do with their social media accounts when they are no longer here.
A year ago I counted the number of sites where I post my own content online. It turned out that I am present in over 30 places.
I shared the password to my computer with my parents a while back, and I’ve also let them know the login and passwords to some of my most relevant social media accounts. If they need to, they know how to log in to my mobile phones and iPad as well. My partner also has access to my digital devices.
When I’m not here I would like my Facebook account to stay as it is; it’s like a diary of what I’ve done, who I’ve known, the places I’ve been to and some of my personal thoughts. If it’s turned into a memorial page, I think that is okay as well. I’ve used my Instagram as a personal diary, and it’s easy to see what I’ve been up to, so that should stay. I post a memory there a few times a week, and it’s great to look back at what I’ve been up to.
I don’t feel that close to my Twitter account, and it would be okay if that were deleted. On my LinkedIn page I share a lot of blog posts, if would be good if they were kept so people can continue to read what I’ve written.
The most complex digital asset I have is my personal website and blog: www.sofiesandell.com. It’s tricky because someone needs to manage it if I can’t do it. For a website you pay for your domain name and for hosting, and if the bank cards you pay with are not working any longer who will take the payments over?
When I’m not here any longer it would be best to close down my website. I need to set up a backup plan if I want my website and blog to stay active.
The journalist also asked me if I would like to send a message out on my social media when I’m gone. There are social media apps to help you with this.
No, is my answer.
I think it would be unfair to push messages out online when I’m dead. I write a lot, and would definitely like people to be able to remember me by looking at my social media accounts. If there is something I need to tell people, I will try to do it while I’m still here, not by sending a message after my death that may not be welcome at that moment.
Some people are concerned about how they will be perceived online after they die. I believe that it’s connected with the fact that we expose ourselves all the time. We share more, and then people see more of us. Social media is part of our identity and who we are, and, of course, we would like to be remembered by others in a good and fair way.
It’s a trend to be open and share a lot about yourself on social media. This then is reflected by what we leave behind. When we share more on open digital platforms it makes us more conscious of what we leave behind on social media.
Some feel that they are writing their biography when they blog and document their lives on YouTube. It does make you think about who you are and how you would like to be remembered.
If you have any thoughts or worries you are welcome to get in touch with me, just send me an email at sofie @ sofiesandell.com.
Thank you for reading.