25 Nov, 2015

What happens to your social media presence after you die?

For this blog my thoughts have turned to mortality; in particular, what happens to your social media presence after you die? It's a topic that has been in the news a lot with families fighting social media platforms to get their deceased loved ones presence removed.

Let's look for example at Facebook. A friend or relative can request that your Facebook profile is memorialised, though they have to supply a death certificate at the time... so you'd better be dead when they try. You can also nominate a legacy contact who will look after your memorialised account, or you can request your profile is permanently deleted.

So if you don't think about this less than happy topic now it means that you may leave your social media presence online in perpetuity. And while virtual immortality may sound good to you, it may cause your family and friends sadness or grief if they unexpectedly see you appearing in their timeline—as is Facebook's habit of regurgitating things from your past.

Other social media platforms have different ways of managing this issue. Some might delete your account after a specified period of inactivity, others require death certificates.

artificial intelligence running your social media presence

Now to look at things from the other side (sorry for that). What happens if you want your social media presence to actively live forever? There are options. The Eter9 social network uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to learn your personality, and in your permanent absence it will continue to publish and interact as if you were still posting, commenting etc. This is done using your Counterpart, so the more you teach your Counterpart while you are alive, the better it learns to more accurately reproduce content for you when you're dead.

There are other "eternity" software solutions available, some didn't make it due to lack of interest—you could say they died—and some are in beta or private testing e.g. Eternime.

Ultimately, if immortality is what you're looking for, then the social media world can provide it. My thought on this is that if I saw someone close to me "posting" on social media after they had died I would be perturbed, if not a little rattled.

Plus there's the narcissism aspect to consider too. Do I really want to live on through an AI posting to social media? After all, it might be saying something that I don't agree with, something controversial, or something that will actually sully the memory of me. Just like humans who catch a cold and get all cranky, the AI might get a bug and start getting snarky on my behalf. I guess that it's down to each individual to make that determination for their virtual afterlife.

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