Do you want to live forever? Here’s how…

We all know the Facebook statistics. How many people are signed up to the site. How many actively log in each day. How long each visit lasts on average. The average number of friends each user is connected to.

Well, here’s a new one for the list: three Facebook users die every minute.

Facebook or Twitter is often the first thing people think about upon waking, updating their status before they’ve even gotten out of bed. But how much thought have you given to your online life after death? People construct online identities for themselves. These may or may not mimic the lives they lead IRL. Hypothetically, someone might have formed an entire existence online through the people they interact and form bonds with, documenting their thoughts and opinions, and replicating themselves (or a version of themselves) on the internet.

Whether you’ve given much thought to it or not, the Australian company Life Insurance Finder sure has. Recognising the need for it, they have established some guidelines to consider before the Grim Reaper comes a-knocking. For one, they suggest appointing a trustworthy ‘digital undertaker’ who will guard passwords and understand how you want your online accounts handled (outlined in your digital will of course) upon your death.

It might seem like a pointless exercise and an opportunistic move by insurance providers but it’s worth thinking about the implications of leaving behind (or not) an unmanned Facebook or Twitter account. I can hear the geeky words falling out of Ross Gellar’s mouth now: “By the year 2030 there’ll be computers that can carry out the same amount of functions as an actual human brain so, theoretically, you could download your thoughts and memories into this computer and… and live forever, as a machine”. It’s not that farfetched considering prolific Tweeters document their likes, dislikes, political affiliations, hopes, dreams, fears. One site, That Can Be My Next Tweet  generates new tweets based on things you have already posted (try it and let us know if they generate something you could see yourself saying!) and so it is possible that, after your death your Twitter, and therefore you, could live on forever.

Do you fancy living forever online? My first reaction was no. I’ve even considered mentioning to friends how I’d like them to handle my Facebook account should I meet my, hopefully untimely, end. My instinct has always been to shut it down but it’s an intriguing notion that a hundred years from now descendants of mine could get a really real sense of me. In one sense it’s not so different than coming across your great great great granny’s diary and photos but, although digital, feels more tangible than that. Deleting your profiles after your death is profoundly sad in a way. You’ve departed the physical world and to be distinguished from the digital one forever is very final. More final than death? I’m not sure but I’m also not sure I’d want mine, or a loved one’s, Facebook page to become some kind of morbid shrine.

This great infographic from the Australian insurance company in question outlines a convincing argument for considering a digital will. Nearly every implication is covered as well as procedures you may want to put in place. It’s well worth a read and extremely thought provoking, if not a tad on the creepy side. Let us know what you think below – but remember, it’ll remain there forever…

– Catherine Clifford

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