Live On Or Long Gone? Social Media After Death

  • June 12, 2014
  • INK Team

This post comes from INK alumna Rachael Genson.

I think it’s safe to say that our culture has become obsessed with social media. According to a 2013 study from Experian Marketing Services, 16 minutes out of every hour online was spent on social media – that’s nearly 27 percent of ALL TIME spent on personal computers. Heck, even I’ve fallen victim to my social profiles, utilizing every spare minute to mindlessly check on updates, news, and yes, even my increase in likes/follows/RTs.

In the last few years, a constant focus on social media has become an accepted part of our daily routines. But at what point is our obsession with social media too much?

You may remember a blog post my colleague Helen wrote in 2011 about what happens to your digital assets once you die. She discusses the murky subject of how family members handle your digital presence (both legally and tactically) after you pass on – a sensitive topic on its own, but recently there’s been increased talk about businesses taking this a step further.

I was recently listening to a conversation on NPR with Evan Carroll, co-author of the book, Your Digital Afterlife, and found myself completely transfixed by his notion that post-mortem social media presences were a thing, and that companies like LIVESON and were finding ways to monetize it by giving individuals the ability to control the future of their digital content, pre-mortem.

LIVESON is a service that learns your tweeting voice – they way you use phrases, things you typically say, etc. ­– and uses artificial intelligence algorithms to figure out how you should sound in the future so that it can tweet after you have died. Similarly, analyzes your online presence to create a digital avatar that lives on and that family and friends can – wait for it – communicate with for eternity.

During this NPR conversation, the host questions whether these services will get to a point where our “afterselves” can actually make a difference in the world. But I have a different question, and one that I am hopefully not alone in wondering: is it really necessary to maintain our social media voice after we have passed?

Sure, this gives us a way to live on, and maybe it can open some doors that were not once an option, but think of that age-old adage: just because we can doesn’t always mean we should.

I certainly don’t know the answer to that.

Maybe as social media becomes even further ingrained in our day-to-day, the idea of having online conversations with our deceased will become accepted. I mean, we’ve already seen something similar with the recent Michael Jackson avatar at the Billboard Awards. But to me, it still seems a little strange…

I might be addicted to my social media platforms, but I think that addiction should be reserved for my current life only. What do you think? Tweet your thoughts to @INK_PR.