Digital Immortality

Having completely run out of rabbit holes and bright shiny objects to distract me from doing actual, productive work, I decided to respond to one of those social media entreaties from someone I vaguely recall meeting somewhere who now, for some reason, wants to be my friend.

By clicking on the handy link in the email, I was whisked to the website where I could click another handy link to be connected with my new BFF.

But, as any social media denizen knows all too well, that was just the beginning. On the next screen I was given the opportunity to connect with 937 other people I vaguely recall meeting somewhere. In fact, I’m sure that a social media entreaty from me would be about as welcome as a dinnertime phone call from a solar energy company.

So, with nothing better to do except actual, productive work, I decided to play their silly game and scroll through all 937 potential BFFs. In doing so, I soon realized that about a quarter of the people on the list had shuffled off their mortal coils. I felt like I was trapped in an endless loop of The Sixth Sense.

This is a real and growing problem as the Internet ages along with the population. Over time, more and more people who have Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, and so forth will enter into the Big Sleep without fanfare. After all, unless I’ve missed some mystical memo on the subject, I don’t believe that it’s possible to post to your Facebook page from the Great Beyond. In all the excitement you’d probably forget your password anyway.

About the only thing we can do is make sure that our social media links are included in our wills – “… and I hereby request that my cousin Jimmy post a tasteful memorial for a few weeks and then take everything down.” (You’d better hope that Jimmy is a fan; otherwise his rantings about how you stole his girlfriend in third grade would make an awkward postscript to your otherwise perfect life.)

I understand that Facebook, for one, will allow loved ones to create memorial pages for the dearly departed. This gives rise to the ultimate punking: convincing Facebook that you are indeed the loved one of someone actually still alive, and creating a memorial page for him or her.

I wonder if anyone would notice.

CC BY-ND 4.0 Digital Immortality by Jay Mitchell is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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