When I was younger I dreamed of writing books. To me it was the one tangible way a person really lived on after death. Your words, your thoughts, your characters live on well beyond your years. If you were prestigious enough there might be classes about you at the university level, books would be written about your technique. There would be movies and remakes created around your books and your characters would be the fodder of countless spin-off novels. To me it was all very glamorous. Today you don’t need to be an amazing writer to have your words and thoughts live on after you die. All you need is an online identity. (Sorry for the morbid topic I like talking about death.)
The digital afterlife, as it is being called, is now the subject matter of one book and countless websites and blogs. All of these mediums attempt to answer the same questions – what happens to your online identity after you die? How can you preserve this identity? Who should you appoint as an online executor of your digital life?
Various social media companies have policies about what happens to your things upon death. Your Yahoo e-mail account, for example, is non-transferrable. So if you never told anyone your password while alive they will not be able to access it when you are gone. (Better make sure my family knows my password since all my half-written manuscripts are sitting in my yahoo drafts folder.) Twitter and YouTube on the other hand are willing to work with the family members of the deceased person to transfer the account.
While some of this makes sense to me, some of the programs currently being developed are attempting to prolong life, even if just in a digital form. For example, one site virtualeternity.com will allow you to create an avatar that can be trained to think, talk and act just like you in order to live on after you die. While you are six-feet under your avatar will be able to talk to relatives and friends and answer questions just like you would in real life. What?! I mean, really what?!
Life is precious and beautiful but it is also finite. It ends; the world keeps rolling on. New life is born new technology is created and you are gone, not there to experience it and that is the way it is supposed to be.
Sure, maybe you want your family to be able to login into your facebook account to access all the photos you’ve uploaded over the years. Maybe they will make a book out of your blog entries, or turn your ramblings into a best-seller. But trying to prolong your online life because you can’t let go of this life seems extreme.
Would you appoint an online executor of your online information? Or would you be content to let all the accounts go dormant when you do?