It’s something that has crossed my mind a few times since I’ve carried out signigicant portions of my life online – What would happen if I died? Or more accurately what would happen to my online self if my physical self died?
A morbid thought and one which in the past I have tried to quite quickly dismiss as a)something I hope to be a long way off from happening b)something that a grown up would know what to do about if the worse happened.
But truth is, would anyone in my immediate circle of family and friends really think about my online self if my physical self was deceased? Perhaps it is more likely that they would now than a few years ago (for instance in 2003 when I nearly died from a freak medical condition. Which is a whole other story culminating in a magazine article illustrated with this picture).
They may think of a the mainstream areas of my online life – email (do they know how many accounts I have? How many are active?), Facebook maybe. I don’t think there is much hope that they would get to the next level on the list; Twitter, Plinky et al. And no hope at all that they would clear out the back of my online cupboard; abandoned MySpace account, email addresses used for specific purposes, a hardly-ever used Messenger account and list.
And this isn’t to do any of the people in my life, who would also be going through the real-world process of winding up my estate, but more something that has bothered me on occasion – there is no personal history of where I’ve been online and the relationships I have built in these places. I have built networks of friends who I may never meet in real life but who I would want to know if I were no longer around.
I’m not feeling particularly morbid at the moment but I was interested to read about Legacy Locker – a sort of online undertaker as the article puts it. For a fee they will store details of your accounts and passwords and will provide these to a designated caretaker in the event of your death (and they need to have a copy of your death certificate delivered to their physical office before they will hand out the details).
It’s an interesting concept, and one that is surely only going to become more relevant as more people socialise and carry out business online. This company can make sure your social side is covered by allowing those around you to access services through which you have made friends and also allow them access to PayPal / eBay etc and add your virtual pennies to your estate.
I don’t suppose many casual internet users will think about this. Afterall,leaving your mark in the everlasting online space gives at least the appearance of immortality.
To me, a system by which your online self’s estate can be wound up with that of the physical self is just another way in which online is merging with traditional offline and becoming a very real and transactionable part of everyday life.