Tom Caru asks what might be the most important existential question of our (Read: the social media) age – What do you want for your Facebook epitaph?
What happens after we die?
It is a question that mankind has dwelled upon ever since we gained the luxury of being able to dwell upon anything.
The meaning of life and the nature of our existence are some of the “big questions” that artists, philosophers and sci-fi novelists grapple with periodically, without conclusion.
Now we find ourselves in the age of social media and networking, and if these questions were not big enough by themselves, we now have to entertain them twice over – what is the nature of my online existence? What happens to my social media profiles when I die?
We discovered fire but its light obscured the stars.
What happens to my Facebook after I die? Who is going to delete my embarrassing status updates when I get hacked?
Holy shit what if I die before I can log out of Facebook?
The crate of embarrassing pornography isn’t even a crate anymore. You don’t need to entrust a trusted friend with a door key, but your login details.
My Instagram followers are going to think that I’ve just suddenly stopped drinking amazing looking coffee and eating amazing looking meals.
My Pinterest followers probably won’t ever notice that my perfect planned “Dream Holiday” board will never be realised.
And my Twitter followers will likely be the last ones to notice my demise, since there always seems to be a massive lag when I tweet from other social media.
All jokes aside – you may not be aware, but Facebook has already created a mechanism to address your death – a memorial profile feature.
Once Facebook confirms your death (via obituaries etc.) the feature can be enacted at the request of family members. Your afterlife profile won’t appear in anyone’s friend suggestions and can only be accessed by confirmed Facebook friends.
A couple of years ago, a close friend died abruptly. Since then, every year on his birthday, friends and family will often post a few thoughts to share or reflect. It might seem strange until you experience it for yourself, but I think it is a great practice.
For my own part, I feel that the collection of photos, witty status updates and beloved music videos that I would leave behind on my Facebook profile would be a far more fitting “place” to visit and work through some nostalgia than a hunk of cold stone sticking out of the earth.