Three things receive unconditional respect and are regarded as
near-holy in my home: a German work ethic (Kurt, my partner, is of
German heritage), good food (preferably made with lots of butter), and
Terminators (you heard me). I like to consider the Terminator ethos and ask myself, W.W.J.C.D? In fact, it’s what came to mind after Daily Gumboot editor-and-chief John Horn asked me to contribute to the post-apocalyptic series: what would John Connor do?
As a huge Terminator fan, I can say with some certainty that in times like these, with our online lives spread across social networks, ecommerce sites and Google, John Conner would be prepared. And Sarah Connor would be proud.
More of us need to be thinking like John Connor. That’s because, in totally non-resistance fashion, there’s no universal protocol on what happens to our online life after we die.
Facebook, for example and with proper documentation, can turn your profile into an online memorial. There’s also an app that allows you to prepare a video message for your friends and family. The people in charge of releasing that message are called your “trustees” and will only allow it to be sent when you’re gone. Twitter, on the other hand, simply shuts down your account rather than hand it off to next of kin.
There will come a day when it’s left to our family and friends to manage our digital identity. Assuming that Skynet hasn’t tried to destroy the human race and the Resistance isn’t too busy fighting to worry about your digital life which would no doubt be controlled by Skynet anyways, it’s worth considering the following checklist to better help the people you love take care of your memory, both on and offline.
What To Do Online Before You Die
1. To the best of your ability (let’s face it, it’s hard to keep track of it all) list all of the online networks, communities, websites, companies and organizations you belong to that require a password login. This includes Facebook and other social network websites as well as online banks and websites you’ve bought from in the past. Keep this in a safe place somewhere on your computer and, preferably, offline. It’s likely a document you’ll want to update, annually. When the time comes your friends and family can follow your wishes.
2. Tools like 1Password will help keep all of your passwords and login information handy and in one place for your next of kin.
3. Do you host your own blog or website? Prepare all of the hosting information and keep it together in one place with instructions on how to proceed. There are also hosting solutions that, for a price, will keep your blog up and live and operating, indefinitely. Maybe even through Judgement Day.
4. There are online services that can send email messages to your contacts so long as it’s prompted by someone you’ve given control. If final farewells are important to you, this may be a service you want to consider. Personally, I would ask one of my close friends (likely a writer from the Daily Gumboot) to prepare a digital eulogy and send it out to my contacts.
5. It’s important to have a will and there are templates and online tools available to help you create a digital version of it. Keep in mind you will still need a notary to make it official.
6. Finally, think about what you want your online legacy to look like — do you want a place where people can come together to send your loved ones their deepest sympathies? Will there be a digital component to your wake? These may sound like morbid questions but I know they’re the ones my friends and family will ask when I’m gone.
I think we’re going to see a lot more activity and conversation around the topic of how we die online in the years ahead. In the meantime, prepare like you would for the Resistance and against any damage that could harm your online memory and the efforts of your loved ones. It’s certainly what John Connor would do.
Photo courtesy Maxwell Hamilton, flickr.
Have I missed anything? I’d love your feedback and advice on how to better preserve online memory and build an online legacy. Feel free to post, below.