You will die. But that is not important.
I will die too, as well as everyone who is reading this at the very moment. That is not important, either.
Because leaving life means having been born, having been gifted with being alive, with being here to begin with. After your death, millions of people will be born, will laugh and suffer and hope and give up, millions will kill and millions will die for someone. Your family and your friends will continue waking up every day with last night’s nightmares and tomorrow’s big dreams in their minds, they will meet new beautiful characters, they will love, ache, fail, fail again. And they will fail better every time, every day.
Life and the art of letting life go is what makes being human so special. Throughout history it was the greatest scientists and philosophers who tried to capture the mystery of life after death: so many books written, so much research conducted, so many attempts to grasp this one question that has fascinated humanity ever since man was born.
And then Social Media came and blew everything up.
See, you will die. But in case you have a Facebook or an Instagram account, digital immortality comes with the all inclusive package along with loss of privacy and matters of surveillance. If you also have Twitter, Snapchat or others, here’s what will happen to you after you die.
After an IG user’s death, the account can either be removed or memorialized.
In both cases, relatives need to contact Instagram for purposes of proof (f.e., proof of the person’s birth and death certificate).
Then, the account can either be removed or kept alive. Memorializing an account means in particular:
- Anyone can send a photo or video using Instagram Direct to the deceased person. (highly important comment of the author:…why?)
- Instagram doesn’t allow anyone to log into a memorialized account.
- Memorialized accounts can’t be changed in any way. This includes changes to likes, followers, tags, posts and comments.
- Posts the deceased person shared (ex: photos, videos) stay on Instagram and are visible to the audience they were shared with.
Hence, Instagram can function as a retired archive in case family and friends want to browse through your filtered and hashtagged memories. As a result, many of us will always be remembered as the avocado-eating, minimal-decor-on-white-ikea-tables-loving, #goodvibes-experiencing hipsters that we were (not).
Facebook also provides the same settings when it comes to memorializing an account. Still, thanks to the concept of the “legacy contact”, it comes closer to the idea of digital immortality.
According to Facebook…
A legacy contact is someone you choose to look after your account if it’s memorialized. Once your account is memorialized, your legacy contact will have the option to do things like:
- Write a pinned post for your profile (example: to share a final message on your behalf or provide information about a memorial service).
- Note: If your Timeline and Tagging settings don’t allow anyone other than you to post on your Timeline, your legacy contact won’t be able to add a pinned post to your profile once it’s memorialized
- Respond to new friend requests (example: old friends or family members who weren’t yet on Facebook) (…why?)
- Update your profile picture and cover photo (again…why? With selfies from the after-life?)
The question that occurs is hence, who would you choose as your legacy contact?
Griefing in 2017
Grief depends on culture and time; Hence, using Social Media to express feelings of loss is simply the product of a society’s approach to death in a specific historical and cultural setting. Isn’t the aim, eventually, to learn to let go?
Besides innovative trends in the video games industry (s. above), artificial intelligence and “death technology” push the limits even further by the creation of chatbots who imitate the deceased person’s talking style and tone.
But many of Mazurenko’s friends found the likeness uncanny. “It’s pretty weird when you open the messenger and there’s a bot of your deceased friend, who actually talks to you.”
Check out this if that sounds more like science fiction rather than a true story to you.
Whether you instruct a friend to take care of your Social Media accounts or whether you build a chatbot that communicates to your family and relatives like you used to do, one thing is clear: In the end, it all comes down to allow your relatives to find peace.
What will matter for them is to move on with you being an inspiring memory, not a forever active digital account.