"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."
—Muriel Rukeyser

How to Prepare For Your Digital Afterlife

Plan for the digital afterlife of your Google accounts

If you’re browsing the internet for information and entertainment, chances are you’ve got online accounts and a host of pesky passwords to remember.  With the advent of Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Tumblr, Yahoo, Myspace and hundreds of other social media networks and forums, our identities no longer reside solely on our person.  They are completely intertwined with the mass media in all its formats.  Add legal and financial information on banking and government websites, and you’ve got quite a knot to untangle.  Just as it’s important to write up a will, it’s essential to prepare for your digital afterlife.

In the olden days, when a person passed away, it was relatively simple to clear up their affairs.  Bank accounts were closed by relatives, possessions and assets given out, and death notices prepared.  Now, an individual actually continues to live on after death, in the form of their networks and online accounts.  There is a good chance that someone may write you an email or drop a line on your Facebook page, even once you’re gone.  In 1900, a person’s sphere of acquaintance might extend to 50 or 100 others over their lifetime.  Now, we meet and make connections with hundreds or thousands of people, both virtually and in person.  It took you time and effort to create that web, so it takes the same to unravel it.

You can help the process along.  Start by collecting all of your online account usernames and passwords.  Store them in a safe place, even a deposit box at the bank.  Give the key (or the list itself) to someone you trust completely, with the instructions that it is only to be viewed upon your death.  Along with the list, you can include special requests for different online accounts. Some people prefer their Facebook account to be de-listed, while others are fine with it becoming an online memorial.  You can also specify which files and photo directories you would like deleted forever.

Luckily, along with the technical complications of the internet, there are a host of technical solutions.  Your informational archives can be downloaded into a single file to be kept on your hard drive, which offers a wonderful record of your life for your loved ones after you pass on.  Archiving services are available which support Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare and many other platforms.

New companies are springing up to deal specifically with the issue of the digital afterlife.  Password management services such as LastPass collect all of your online profile information and keep it encrypted until it’s unlocked with one special password.  You can give a trusted family member the key, to be opened only in the event of your death.

Your online identity should be viewed as a sort of legacy that you pass on, just like your financial estate.  So choose someone to administer your affairs upon your death, if possible.  If you prepare for your digital afterlife, you’ll have the comfort of knowing that when you go, your information won’t be left floating in cyberspace.  In fact, your digital afterlife may provide connection and sustenance to those who miss you most.

Reposted from Life After Death

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