Planning your digital afterlife

Posted by Rob Walker on January 15, 2009
Posted Under: Suggestions

Let’s say that right after I post this item, I keel over, dead.

Who would approve whatever pithy comments you might submit? Aside from this site, I have two other unrelated blogs, a Facebook profile and page, a Flickr account, a personal website, an Etsy store, etc. What happens to all that stuff?

I know that there are policies in place at the companies that ultimately control my digital expressions of my (living) self — I just read this NYT column in which the writer relates some the death-related policies of Facebook, which she looked into after being notified of the pending birthday of a deceased friend.

But the column made me wonder what the dead friend would have wanted. And how I would want my digital afterlife to be handled: What should disappear along with me, what I would prefer to persist and with what adjustments and caveats.

Morbid! But still. Maybe such a business already exists, but if it doesn’t: Perhaps one of the bright, young business-school things who read this site can found a digital-afterlife-management service.

The product/service would be sort of analogous to a will. It would store and manage all the necessary passwords for one’s appointed digital-life executor, but would also spell out the wishes, preferences, and instructions of the relevant individual: Wipe out X account; put up an announcement on Y blog and close the comments; renew the domain registration on Z site for as long as possible, etc. Unlike a traditional will, this would have to be some kind of regularly updatable service, to keep pace with the digital venues, as they come and they go.

At the very least, I’d like to know, for the sake of accuracy, that somebody would be making sure my Twitter feed finally showed a second tweet.

Further diversion may be found at MKTG Tumblr, and the Consumed Facebook page.

Reader Comments

I’ve been fascinated by this subject since 2003, as it happens:

I’ve said it before, but there’s a business opportunity for a kind of social media executor, who cleans up and archives all of a loved one’s web stuff after they pass. In truth, this would probably just become a service offered by progressive funeral homes.

Written By Darren on January 15th, 2009 @ 2:58 pm
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