Dealing with the digital aftermath
When someone dies what does the family left behind do with their loved ones former digital footprint?
Do they retain the information posted for posteritys sake or are the online reminders too painful to bear and require removal?
Regardless of which path a family may opt to take for many the pressing problem can simply be gaining access to their loved ones former online accounts.
I felt compelled to blog about this after two recent experiences relating to this theme that left me pondering what I would wish my family to do with my digital footprint.
First up a former industry colleague who passed way in 2010 that still had a Facebook / Twitter presence online for many months after death.
The Facebook wall was filled with tributes and provided a wall of memories shared by former friends.
Similarly tweets from the Twitter account told a story of a life well lived and the daily thoughts of someone who was a very creative thinker.
Both accounts have since been closed and all data removed. I’m guessing at the request of a family member – but it’s only a guess.
To me it’s as if poof – the person never existed in that online space - and ironically they were almost evangelical in life about the prospects and opportunities that the Internet afforded people and how it should be embraced.
I wonder what they would say now if they knew their digital tracks had been wiped so cleanly from the Internet.
The second instance is a former university student friend of mine who died a year or so ago and who was on Facebook.
This time the account remains – images of the now late friend posted online serve as a reminder of a full life lived well and posts to the Facebook wall tell of someone sorely missed by friends left behind.
Now my question is what would you do?
Consider the long trail of footprints you have left on the digital beach that is the Internet.
Do you want these to remain for all to see or should or some virtual high tide come in and obliterate any remnants of your online profile /life after you die?
For me it’s a measured approach to the online life that I opt to take.
I hope I don’t get wiped from the Internet when I die.
I hope that the thoughts and the ideas I choose to type up on a blog, Tweet out, Facebook to a wall etc. will remain for my family, friends or random strangers just curious enough about who I was to peruse.
The online world is a wondrous place to be in.
As for the online afterlife – well that’s less clear.