To address these and other questions, writers Evan Carroll and John Romano have put together a website called The Digital Beyond, as well as another companion site for their book, Your Digital Afterlife. I recently started reading the book, but thought I’d head over to their site and check the free resource recommendations they have for what you can do to prepare for your digital afterlife. This may sound like a morbid subject, but death is a reality for all of us. But it’s how we will be remembered is what counts and keeps us “alive” in the hearts and minds of our loved ones.
Carroll and Romano’s Digital Beyond is their blog site which was started in May 2009. It ponders questions and issues about our digital existence and what happens after our death. Popular topics so far include, “so what ‘does’ happen to your digital assets after you die?“, ”Twitter adopts policy for deceased users“, and “Digital afterlife predictions for 2010“. The authors also produce a podcast and post videos of their recent interviews, one which includes a talk on NPR’s Fresh Air.
Their site is new, but it’s one of the few, if not the only one, that is addressing questions and issues that so-called Millennials and Gen Xers – the generations of people who will have a lifetime of digital assets – will need to address.
It”˜s usually very difficult to prepare for your death because unless you suffer from a terminal illness it’s hard to know when your life may come to an end. But as we get older, we start to think about how we want to be remembered, and what we want to communicate to our friends and family after we’re gone. Saikat wrote a great piece called 5 Quick and Simple Ways to Write Your Life Logs which addresses this subject, and Tina wrote a similar one about 5 Ways to Document Your Life in Pictures Online.
But if you want a way to speak directly to your special friends and loved ones from the grave, so to speak, you might want to check out a very simple and direct site called If I Die.
After creating a free account on this site, you can write and store letters to your friends and family. In summary, this is how the site works:
Each letter, when finished, will be stored securely and encrypted with a special password of your choosing. No one will be able to read any of your letters while you’re still alive. If someone attempts to read a letter, this website will initiate a process to determine whether you are in fact dead and whether your letter should be released. As a first precaution, ifidie.org will send you an email every day for two weeks – if you respond to these emails your letter will stay locked. If you don’t respond, all is not lost – ifidie.org will then attempt to contact up to five of your closest friends (of your choosing) every day for two more weeks. If any of them respond to say that you are alive, your letter will stay locked. You letter will only be unlocked if neither you nor any of your friends responds to a month of constant emails.
It’s a pretty neat idea, but the important thing is for you to regularly visit and add content to your account over your lifetime, which also helps make sure the site is always up and running.
Dead Man’s Switch works similarly to If I Die, but it’s, pardon the pun, dead simpler. You select a few trusted friends or family members and write them emails about your afterlife digital assets. These emails may contain where and how to access important online documents, user and password information for important online content, or any instructions in the event you unexpectedly die.
The emails are encrypted with military-grade algorithms, so you can be sure that no-one except the intended recipient will ever read them. You will be notified every so often (the site doesn’t say how often) to check that you’re still alive. If after a certain period time you don’t respond, Switch will send the emails you wrote to the recipients you specified.
This kind of “electronic will”, as the site calls it, might be very useful for people such as soldiers in military combat and other people who work in life-threatening jobs.
One of the best things we can do for our family and friends is to help them prepare for when we’re gone. My Wonderful Life allows you to create a sort of digital life book which can include letters, favorite memories, your own obituary and even the design on your headstone.
After you register your account, you can designate “Angles” inside your book. The Angles are the people in your life that will know you have died and will carry out your wishes. The people you designate are notified about your book, and if they accept they will become one of the “Angles” who will get access to your book after you’re gone.
Since so much of what we do in the digital world is password protected, it might be difficult for our family friends to access our digital assets after we’re gone. It’s resources like the ones described above that might be useful solutions to this problem.
So how are you preparing for your digital afterlife? Have you given it much thought? Let us know about your solutions.