Digital Afterlife: Legacies, Digital Executors, and Visiting The Dead On Facebook

digital_afterlifeWho Will Update My Facebook Status When I Die?
If you follow this blog’s Twitter feed you may have already seen me saying goodbye to people I’ve enjoyed in person and online.  MIT’s Bill Mitchell and Chuck Howes, formerly of the Christian Science Publishing Society, both good men, recently passed away.  In the case of Chuck, I often reached out to discuss “crazy-stage” publishing ideas on LinkedIn and Facebook.

When my mom died, I got her address book.  Every friend’s birthday, the names of their spouse and kids, even when they graduated was written there.  It was a record of her memory and some of her values.

I don’t keep an address book, not even really in Outlook.  Most of that lives in social media.  If I wanted to find Chuck, I’d zap him a note through LinkedIn, and regardless of where he was working, or riding his bike, the message would get through.

So this raises a question: How do we pass on those contacts and values to our survivors?  A recent  SXSW panel asked the practical question “Who Will Check My Email When I Die?”  The social media equivalent may be “Who Will Update My Status When I Die?”

Your Digital Legacy
My lawyer friends and I have always wondered about digital inheritance, and if businesses would rise up to provide escrow services for endowing our digital selves.  Who will be your digital executor?

Back in the 90′s before there were blogs, I researched thousands of history dates associated with Boston, and with the help of a friend made a self-updating history website that had something to say about each day of the year.  This was a work of love, and I realized that someday my kids might enjoy my thoughts or even add to them after my demise.  So why not endow the website to keep running as an echo of a desire to share these stories?

Do You Think About Your Digital Life Exceeding Your Natural One?
Do you think about this stuff?  Do you visit the pages of departed friends, or think about what passwords you’d pass on? And if you think about extending your online life beyond your actual life, how do you imagine that happening?

I’ll post some resources in the comments, and hope you will too.  And I’d be delighted to talk a little about managing our digital afterlives.

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