Life after death

March 14, 2012 9:44 am

Dying is no longer a barrier to producing online content

They say the ones we love never really leave us when they die. But whereas in times past people had to rely on memories, photographs and perhaps some letters, these days the online content footprint brings the notion of immortalising people a step closer.

Social media has provided the platform, with virtual condolence books now commonplace for public and personal losses. But as psychologist Nathan Gaunt told New Zealand’s Sunday Star Times, this can be a ‘double-edged sword’, largely due to those sad and sick individuals known as trolls, who get a perverse kick out of causing offence and distress by posting upsetting messages on Facebook walls commemorating the deceased:

‘I’ve seen where people have been able to come together on an international level to honour someone if they are unable to make the funeral, like a living memorial, but I have also heard of cases overseas where things have gone bad.

‘People have posted nasty things which has been very distressing for family members or there has been a dispute between family members and friends that has been played out on Facebook in a very public way.’

Creating posthumous content

Increasingly, though, people are deliberately seeking to ‘live on’ after death by getting family members of friends to post on their behalf. This trend is becoming so popular that the New Zealand Law Society has released a policy paper recommending that anyone active online includes a note in the will stating what should happen to their ‘digital assets’ once they die, including leaving a record of passwords so executor/s can access social media and other online accounts.

As the Sunday Star Times reports, this holds great appeal to some, who see it as a means of paying tribute to a life, of drawing attention to a cause the dead person held dear or, particularly thanks to Facebook Timeline, simply as a means of creating a lasting journey that children and other loved ones can draw from in the years to come.

Obviously, such an approach is not for everyone, who may feel uncomfortable speaking on behalf of someone else. For them, Facebook already has a ‘death policy’ in place and will permanently delete profiles of dead people if requested or will memorialise profiles so friends can pay their respects.

Either way, it seems online content is making immortality a virtual reality.

 

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