When you're in your twenties, you'll live forever. You're the center of the universe. You are invincible!
But for some strange reason, one day shortly after I’d started my design business, something in the obituaries caught my eye and I began to read. As a young adult in my early 20s, it occurred to me these people were now gone, and reading about them in the obits was undoubtedly the last chance I would have to ever cross that person’s path. I was “meeting” them shortly after they'd departed.
A social media friend once told me she'd asked her niece to contact me in case anything ever happened to her. And it made me think about my own relationships with friends on Twitter and other social media channels. Some are people I regard fondly, and I would want to know if something happened to them. And in turn, I would want them to know if something happened to me. Do most of us have some sort of plan in place?
Local notices include the people in our own back yards. But so many friendships can now span continents, and I didn't think there was a great way to keep track. If someone dies in Seattle at 2 AM Friday, it's still Thursday night in Hawaii and 10 PM Friday night in Sydney. Like the online celebration of birthdays or #FollowFriday, the time of death seems to vary by time zones.
Last week an acquaintance on Empire Avenue suddenly expired. We never met in real life though he lived within an hour of Seattle. It made me think there is no place to post a social media obituary. So I started to investigate and came up with a few interesting articles:
- Huffington Post: Death creates a complicated process for Facebook photos
- The Guardian: Why death is not the end of your social media life
- Wall Street Journal: Life and death online: Who controls a digital legacy?
- CNN: How to post to Facebook, Twitter after you die
- How Stuff Works: What happens to all my social networking information when I die?
- Huffington Post: Death on Facebook now common as "Dead Profiles" create vast virtual cemetery
The articles above led to the following sites that appear to deal with various aspects of letting your social media friends know when you are gone:
- LivesON - keeps tweeting after you've passed away
- ifIdie: An application that enables you to create a video or text message that will only be published after you die.
- DeadSoci.al - allows you to create messages to be released once we have gone.
As I’ve grown older, I find I spend less time reading obituaries. Perhaps it’s because I’m seeing more and more people I recognize, particularly from my parents' generation.
The reality is, social media is part of our lives now. I don't think tweeting after death would be for me, but a notification of SOME sort seems reasonable.
It is hoped each of us will leave a legacy through our impact on others, meaningful accomplishments, and the positive thoughts that are remembered. I've asked myself, if I were to die tomorrow, am I satisfied with the life I've led so far?
The answer would be "yes."
What would you hope your social media obituary would say about you?
Illustration © Tim Teebken