Katie Gach, one digital ethnographer at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who studies how people manage and not manage social media data after death. For some of her subjects, “legacy” is reserved for celebrities, so “ordinary people” like them don’t need to consider a farewell message. If people think about their social media legacy, she says, “they only know who will make those decisions after they die,” which is like telling their spouse their Facebook password. to delete their account. In addition, most people see social media as the wrong medium for messages, “as a tool to communicate in the moment, rather than a meaningful record”.
In addition, over the decades that the Internet has become an everyday part of our lives, most of us still don’t know how or are too upset to grieve online. In one Research 2017, Gach and fellow digital death researchers Casey Fiesler and Jed Brubaker found that “grief policy” is widespread online, where users enter social standards of grief into the media. social media. This leads to fierce disagreements about what is appropriate, and often embarrasses individuals for not expressing enough grief, seeking attention through public grief, or exploiting death to profiteering.
For all of these reasons — along with the old-fashioned fear of death that thwarts all plans for our purposes — the vast majority of death notices online today are like either a copy-and-paste version. literally pasted the local newspaper obituary by heart. Because this formula – date of death, age, deceased alive, where to send money in lieu of flowers – is all data, without life, these messages are often lost in the endless feed of we. Person A changes jobs, Person B divorces, Person C dies, Pete Davidson has a Salt Bae tattoo on his thigh.
Why should we care what our death looks like on Twitter when we die? Although Mark Zuckerberg’s protest announcement earlier this fall was met with mostly mockery, eye roll, and trepidation, it should remind us how close society is to a world where the digital space is part of our actual being (and not just our experience), where institutions like birth, love, and death have the same gravitational pull as in the physical world. . To prepare for this Ready, Player One Now, we should start thinking about ways to manage this world with tools to die meaningfully.
Thankfully, there are already communities that are helping to create the art and ethics of dying gracefully in cyberspace. Megan Devine, a psychotherapist, created A refuge in grief, an online community focused on managing grief as an illness or problem for a community built on compassion and understanding. Another community, Order of the Good Death, which even uses the tagline “Welcome to the Future of Death”, as a portal to important questions about death, like how to make it friendlier and fairer. NS “active death,” the movement to remove the taboo surrounding talking openly about our own mortality, has also found room to grow online, where the monstrous forum allows people to easily get out of their way. more taboo. Even the social media platforms themselves are starting to make waves. After years of complaining, Facebook, there are many control about how grief works, in 2019 begins to allow a legacy contact to have more control over the activities of the deceased.