Saturday, September 26, 2009

"Managing your online afterlife"

Time issue dated September 14, 2009 has an interesting article “Managing your online afterlife”. So what happens after one kicks the bucket, er, well, sort of? We think about these things, don’t we? Just as we look out of a train window and think how many people passed this arid landscape that's nothing but sand and dust and how many of them are dead. Same as I do when I pass the dry areas of the Deccan Plateau when I visit Kerala. Yes, our boundaries blur, we fantasize, we go into the netherworlds of the imagination.

The article delves into the issue of the hereafter, based on the experience of one Pam Weiss who logged on to Facebook to trace photographs of her dead daughter and found many, in fact, a whole lot that would identify with her life, recreate it for her, in the absence of the records she in her old-fashioned way hunted: diaries (now replaced by blogs), letter (now replaced by emails), photo albums (now replaced by online albums). Life changes, so does various aspects of it, sometimes unconsciously, I might add. So she got plenty of material she didn’t know existed, before, um, Facebook actually deleted her profile. I am not sure they do.

Acually Facebook has a policy of putting a person’s profile on “Memorial State” if the person has deceased, so that people know the person is no more. No one can post a status update but can post a comment if he/she is a confirmed friend. Facebook also will delete a profile if the person’s immediate kin approaches them with a death certificate and a copy of the person’s email to the said kin.

People spend a lot of time on their online networks (I do); it’s a trend that has caught up. So all we can do is catch the trend and stay with it. What does the future portend? A life lived purely on an online forum? A life full of Facebook comments and no real conversations? Prescient? Don't know.


ms said...

just wondering, how does facebook know when someone has died? what if they had a facility where facebook users could lodge their "will" and grant access to family or friend when they die. like bequeathing property or peronal effects. in the near future, will login names and passwords to various email accounts form a part of a person's estate? i still can recall the strangeness i felt when i first saw a "video will". very strange.

John said...

actually they know when a person doesn't login with his/her username and password for more than 3 months. They do not divulge the password of any user to others.

If the person is a famous personality all his emails would be of considerable archival value. so there are agencies which can be entrusted with a will for the estate they are leaving behind on social networks like facebook. This agency constantly checks with the person (rather discreetly) if he/she is still alive and if you cease to exist they activate the person's estate or will that is lodged with them.

thirdly yes email in boxes and username and passwords are part of the person's estate. Gmail will give you all his/her emails in a CD but will not give you his/her password.

yeah, a video will is strange. where did you see this?



ms said...

a friend of mine made one so that there would be no dispute regarding her estate when she died. she is still around, and i haven't the courage to ask her if she keeps updating it!
couldn't understand why gmail would retain the deceased's password while handing over cd of emails.