Death and the web: inevitable tech decisions

By andy

Sadly, this week I am coming to terms with the death of a friend. They’re the first person I know to die that had a social media presence — namely a Facebook account — and at present that page seems eerily ‘in limbo’.

Social networking seems to be at such a place presently that, although it is widely accepted as the norm by those who use it, for others it is still a complete mystery.

Yet, particularly if someone dies quite young, it is those who are confused by Web 2.0 that may be left to decide what to do with the accounts.

The Facebook account in question hasn’t been “memorialised” yet, and perhaps that isn’t the best thing to do. One has to weigh up the benefits of making the account more secure with the fact that many pieces of information (such as the archive of wall posts) may no longer be available.

As social networks continue to increase in importance, and as more and more relationships are lived out online, these questions are going to become more common.

Should an online presence be enshrined forever? Could a more tech-savvy friend or relative create a virtual memorial for the deceased? Who has a say over how defunct accounts should be maintained, when relationship circles now extend far beyond immediate family?

I don’t have the answers, but I know that this is only going to become more common. I’m not even sure how I feel – using Facebook everyday means I will have the bittersweet reminder of his life and death much more often than had he not had an account. Enshrined, virtually immortalised, as we continue to grow older.

What do you think?

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