You’ve probably heard the oft-repeated myth that Walt Disney had his body frozen, to be revived at some time in the future. However, as Snopes long ago revealed, there is no truth to this urban legend. All available documentation states that Disney was cremated after death and the first-ever cryogenic freezings took place a month after Disney passed on.
It is true, however, that around 150 people have had their whole body stored in liquid nitrogen in the United States, while 80 have had just their heads or brains preserved. In addition, more than 1,000 living people have instructed companies to preserve their bodies after their death.
Looking Alive at Your Own Funeral
Then there’s the latest fashion in funeral rites. As the New York Times reported last Sunday, 53-year-old Miriam Burbank of Miami, Fla., spent her funeral service sitting at a table amid miniature New Orleans Saints helmets, with a can of Busch beer at one hand and a menthol cigarette between her fingers: in other words, looking in death exactly as she had in life.
It turns out that such funerals are popular elsewhere too, including San Juan, Puerto Rico. Viewings there in recent years have included a paramedic displayed behind the wheel of his ambulance and, in 2011, a man dressed for his wake like Che Guevara, cigar in hand and seated Indian style. Really?
How to Have a Digital Afterlife
And now comes the possibility of web immortality. Dead Social is “the free social media end-of-life tool,” an online service that keeps people alive in the afterlife through their social media accounts. Users can upload an unlimited number of photos, video, audio and text messages which will be sent out on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the DeadSocial website after their death. They can schedule the messages to be posted at any time, up to 999 years into the future.
Writing in The Guardian, Jenny Kleeman recounts the story of Lawrence Darani, in London, UK, who was told that he only had two years to live, and decided to record videos to be sent out after he died by his executor, his wife Lucy.
“As I was looking at the camera, I thought, gosh, I’m not only talking to my kids, I’m talking to my grandkids, and all my generations for years to come. It’s always going to be out there, in the cloud. There’s something comforting about that.” His sky-blue eyes gaze out from behind heavy-rimmed glasses, out of the window, towards the Thames, where generations of his family once worked on the docks. “Through DeadSocial, you can make sure the essence of who you are remains on the internet. It cheats death.”
If arranging for your digital presence after your death sounds creepy to you, you should know that DeadSocial, launched in March 2013, is gaining in popularity and that it is only one of many services catering for the digital afterlife. Some, like Legacy Locker, Cirrus Legacy and Secure Safe, store users’ passwords and important files and release them to executors on the deaths of their owners.
Then there’s If I Die, an Israeli-run application that launched in 2011. It is also free and users record a single message that will be published on their Facebook wall on notification of their death; for $25 they can make five videos. Its creator, Eran Alfonta, says it has “hundreds of thousands” of users, and expects to have a million this year.
Are you one of those users? Have you been managing your afterlife, appointing an executor to keep you alive in the digital world after your death?
Whether we like it or not, our social media presence will outlive us, either in these carefully managed memorial packages or stuck in limbo, wherever we last touched it. Our heirlooms are increasingly stored in the cloud, and not in our closets.
Do You Have a Social Media Executor?
When a good friend passed away last year, I continued for some time to receive Facebook photos in which she had been tagged, which was very creepy.
That’s because no-one told Facebook that my friend had died. Once Facebook is notified of a death, the company will remove status updates and contact details from the page, and stop asking friends to reconnect with the deceased or wish them a happy birthday.
Well, that’s good to know.
So nowadays we need two executors after we die: one for our social media presence and one for our worldly goods.
The question remains: why do we want to have an immortal presence? Whether through freezing our body, looking lifelike at our funeral, or staying alive online, it’s all about trying to outwit the Grim Reaper.
What do you think? Have you made plans for your digital afterlife?
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