Digital Afterlife

Just the other day I was browsing LinkedIn, and the “People you may know” section included a name that caught me off guard.

Lucas Pearson.

He’s a college friend of mine who died a couple of years ago. After reminiscing for a hot minute about all the good times we had in Pullman, I started to wonder how long his profile will remain active. Other questions started cropping up, too. “Can anyone edit Luke’s page? If so, did they change anything? What other websites did Luke leave behind? Did Luke’s family even have a choice to remove his profile from the website?”

I’m aware these are odd questions, but it’s important to remember how things used to be. Not so long ago, when someone died, their friends and family would gather, remember, and perform a variety of rituals.

After a funeral, at least for most of the deceased, there wasn’t too much else to be done. Sure, the estate needed to be tended to, but that was about it. Nowadays, we almost live two lives. One here on the ground and one above in the cloud. We even have digital possessions that need sorting once we pass on. This is to say – the act of grieving hasn’t changed, but we leave much more for people to deal with once we die. Evan Carroll said it best: “the process of grieving, it seems, needs resolution and putting things away, be they digital or physical, is necessary”

While I miss my friend dearly, his death highlights the odd nature of our online personalities. As interesting as it is to live in a tech-heavy world, It’s also an interesting time to die in one. It doesn’t seem like there is a clear set of rules for our digital personalities after we seize to exist here in the “real-world.”

With this in mind I encourage you to take a look at all the “online stuff” tied to your name. If you died tomorrow, what would the internet tell us about who you were?

Rest in peace, Luke. I personally love being able to check out old postings and pictures, it helps me remember the memories we made together.

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