April 15, 2013 · 3 min read
Planning your social media afterlife
Last February, Channel 4 aired an episode of “Black Mirror” about a fictional computer programme that allowed people to go on living through social media even after death. The episode showed how the programme researched a person’s emails, social media profiles and other online activity to mimic how the person spoke and interacted with friends and family. The programme then took on the user’s persona to keep them “alive” online after they had died. Although many viewers would have considered the plot to be more science fiction than reality, it seems they couldn’t be more wrong. In recent months, several options have become available to help people manage their profiles after they die, and the topic is getting more popular with social media users.
LivesOn, a programme that is currently being developed by UK ad agency Lean Mean Fighting Machine, will allow users’ Twitter profiles to continue on even after they die. Users sign up to the programme and allow it to set up a Twitter account that will study their tweets, writing style, and other activities in order to eventually replicate their actions. The LivesOn account is identical to the user’s real Twitter account except that it is private and has “_LIVESON” added to the Twitter handle. As LivesOn monitors the user’s account, it will start to generate tweets while the user is still alive so it can improve its understanding of the user’s syntax, emotions and preferences. When the user dies, a specified executor (usually a family member or friend) can decide whether to make the LivesOn account public so tweets can appear to be generated from the afterlife. LivesOn officials say that more than 7,000 users from around the world have already signed up for the service.
Not to be outdone, last week Google joined the mix, and introduced its “Inactive Account Manager,” where users can specify “what you want done with your digital assets when you die or can no longer use your account.”
The set up is straightforward. First, users select a timeout period of three, six, nine or twelve months of inactivity. If accounts are inactive for the selected amount of time, Google will first try to make contact through email and text to make sure the user has actually died and didn’t just switch to another provider. If it cannot get a hold of them, depending on what the user has instructed, it will either delete the data on the accounts or send the data to contacts preselected by the user. Google is currently offering this service for Blogger, Contacts, Drive, Gmail, Google+, Picasa, Google Voice, and YouTube.
What about the other social networks out there? Facebook does not currently provide people with the login details for a deceased user’s account, but it can “memorialise” accounts, which allows people to share memories on the person’s Timeline but prevents other activities, such as new friend requests and logins.
Officially, Twitter accounts of deceased user can be deactivated if the appropriate paperwork is filed, including sending copies of birth certificates, drivers licences, signed statements, and a clipping of an obituary to Twitter.
So, what do you think about the need to prepare your social media profiles for your death? Is this a trend or something that will gain popularity? Let us know in the comments below.