Your Digital Beyond:
How to plan for your digital afterlife
It might sound morbid, but experts say you need to figure out your personal digital afterlife and start planning for it like any other belongings you would put in your will.
According to allfacebook.com , as of September of 2010 over 300 million facebook members have died since the website launched. That equates to 4.5 percent and another 200,000 members die every year.
Brian Hare, a UMKC assistant teaching professor for the School of Computing and Engineering, has worked at the university for about 10 years.
“This just exploded so much in the last few years we are just starting to think through what we should do," Hare explained. "Anything online stays there until somebody takes it down. The way Facebook’s policy works is if somebody dies the page can be what you call memorialized, so no new friendships will be added and access is limited to people who are confirmed as friends. That way you won’t have friend suggestions pop up for someone who has passed away. “
He said the policy was in put in place in part to stop “trolling.” That’s the name for when people write disrespectful comments on pages of people who died with the primary intent of provoking a response.
“They will ask for documents to prove and verify you are a family member, but the site does not want names and images ruined after someone dies” said Hare.
Depending on how much online property you own and what you want done with your digital afterlife, Hare suggested writing down all of your accounts and passwords and giving it to someone who you trust or putting it in a safe. He said you can ask for a digital executor in your will but don’t put passwords in your will because it becomes public property.
“If it's in your will and you change your password you have to update your will to keep that accurate. And a will is a legal document that so I wouldn’t put passwords or anything like that that's going to have to be filed with anyone else because the entire point of a password is this is what you are using to keep it private and a lot of people have legitimate access to a will that should not have access to your passwords” said Hare.
Hare has planned for his digital afterlife.
“I've got a safe deposit box with the various things that if something happens to me, then and I have a list of passwords and accounts in that" said Hare.
The digital story of Mac Tonnies
It was a conversation Mac Tonnies family or friends never had with him before he suddenly died.
Mac grew up in Independence. He was single, childless and had two cats. He worked at places like Starbucks and a marketing agency to pay the bills. During his off time he was always writing, tweeting, blogging and posting pictures. He spent much of his time exploring aliens and extraterrestrials.
"He was kind of like the new generations of ufologists and he was very serious about it he wasn’t a nut case like some of these characters are but he took it very seriously and was trying to make sense out of it,” said his friend David Peeples.
He had written a few books but posted online several times a day and exchanged ideas with thousands all over the world.
His website, mactonies.com had thousands of readers. He started his blog in 2003 PostHumanblues.com and his flickr account was filled with pictures taken from all over.
He was 34 when he died of cardiac arrhythmia. On October 18 of 2009, he posted an entry on his blog and sent a couple tweets. His last tweet was: “Sculptural manifestations of audio footage.”
He went to bed and then never woke up.
“They didn't find him for three days, he died on a Sunday night and they finally discovered him on a Thursday. It was really sad,” said Peeples.
Because of his online life he had a large legion of followers many who never met him in person. His parents who didn’t even own a computer turned to his friends for help in preserving his digital afterlife.
Lane Van Horn, a Penn Valley English Professor and good friend of Mac Tonnies, said after losing Mac planning for the digital beyond is now a conversation his close circle of friends are having.
“That is just a new thing about living in our times, is having to ask those kinds of questions. In Mac’s case where there is such a huge cash of online communication and a lot of people who knew him explicitly in that way that it would be especially important to have asked Mac what he wanted to do with his cyber land property” said Horn.
His family and friends decided to leave all of his work and websites online. Many of his friends started reposting and retweeting his ideas in magazines, books and new blogs dedicated to his work.
"He was still pushing, thinking, and innovating
and because his life felt so interrupted in the midst of so much creativity the least we could do was to facilitate the further spread of those ideas. In the end I had to guess the password to open up his laptop after he died. His mom brought it down to the coffee shop and based on the clue that his laptop provided, I guessed it, “said Horn.
And they are glad they did, they found a finished manuscript on his laptop and published his book after he died. The Cryptoterrestrials was on bookshelves in 2010.
His friends said they wanted his online accomplishments to live.
“I think he would be glad to have it floating around on the web, in a way if you knew Mac he could be in a parallel universe," said Peeples.
Andrea Ring another friend who met Mac at a coffee shop on the plaza explained, “It could take a person years to read all of his work, so it's nice it’s all still up. Because he posted several times a day, everyday and it is amazing all of the friends he had out there just because of blogging and the Internet.”
We spoke to his family in Independence; they didn’t want to talk on camera but showed us pictures and the digital outpouring of lives Mac touched through his online world.
Mac’s afterlife story worked out well, but there are so many companies and so many different policies to look through when you are trying to plan for your afterlife. It is not always an easy task to remove information that was posted online.
We found a website devoted to this, with a guide on how to navigate your digital afterlife. The thedigitalbeyond.com was designed as a go-to source for archival, cultural, legal and technical insights to help you predict and plan for the future of your online content. There is also a book, "The Digital Afterlife", co-written by Evan Carroll and John Romano.
Experts say it's good to start planning as soon as possible, just in case.
For additional information on how to manage online profiles of digital presences (Facebook,Twitter,Gmail, etc.) for those who are already deceased, you can find more information at:
From 41 Action News @ http://www.kshb.com/dpp/news/science_tech/your-digital-beyond-how-to-plan-for-your-digital-after-life-may2011swp
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