What happens to our social media accounts – our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Whatsapp and whathaveyous – when we are no longer on this earth?
I was just thinking about this the other day when I came across this interesting article uncannily addressing the issue I was pondering on; the realm of growing virtual graveyards.
How is our continuing presence in digital space changing the way we die? And what does it mean for those who would mourn us after we are gone? The numbers of the dead on Facebook are growing fast. Some estimates claim more than 8,000 users die each day. At some point in time, there will be more dead Facebook users than living ones. Facebook is a growing and unstoppable digital graveyard.
Most of us would have known a loved one who has passed on yet whose presence online endures. What a strange phenomenon this is. Living, while leaving. Profile pictures, uploaded videos and tagged photos immortalize the person’s physicality, preserving one’s flesh and bones, wide smiles and glinting eyes, laughter and voice, giving the illusion that this person never left. As though at any moment, he’d post a photo on Instagram, joking that he’d merely fell asleep. As though at any moment, she would reply to your Whatsapp message with a “I’m okay”, punctuated with a smiley emoticon. Perhaps this would, weirdly, aid in alleviating the missing, numbing the gradual, crashing realization that these updates will never happen anymore.
I wonder. When it is my time to leave, would I want people to recognize my presence in the cybersphere? Or would I entrust my passwords to someone reliable just so that when that day comes, my virtual self could be deleted, preferring for her to be erased from memory, nary a trace left online?
With our online platforms, we are ultimately building another ‘me’, an image projected from reality, our personae and our legacy, with which we build connections with people whom we might have otherwise not crossed paths with had it not been for the internet. Will all of this too disappear, once our soul departs?
I guess the question we’ll have to ask ourselves is this: If we are virtually going to exist ‘forever’, then what do we want to be remembered for? What will our legacy be?