I came across this TED talk last week by Adam Ostrow titled ‘After your final status update’ in which he talks about what happens to your personality after you’ve died. Do you live on? He cites the example of a cancer sufferer who left a posthumous blog post for his family to publish. It was an interesting talk in itself, but only after seeing ‘So Who Do You Think You Are’ with June Brown (a.k.a. Dot Cotton) did I really start thinking about social media and the life hereafter.
Brown traces her family tree back to the 1600s with her great-great-great-great-grandfathers. What struck me was that the only clues to their lives are shabby archive files with faded ink informing her of the taxes her ancestry paid and the benefits they claimed. However, there was a lack of anecdotes, personal stories and photography that could provide her a closer bond to her heritage. This has all changed.
Think about your Facebook profile.
How much information is there that future generations will be able to use to glean an insight into your life? Sure, they could resort to official land registers, but your profile isn’t going anywhere. It will provide them with a very detailed (almost day-by-day) story of your life. The loves (relationship statuses), the losses (status updates) and the good times (your latest photos).
Think about your Twitter feed.
I’ve often thought someone’s Twitter feed reflects not only their personality, but what is going on in their lives at any given moment. From birthdays to the London riots, it’s all clearly documented in 140 characters. When you pass away, what are you leaving behind? A list of people you’ve communicated with, a list of your thoughts, and maybe even a list of your favourite foods?
Think about your Foursquare check-ins.
You’re providing a comprehensive maps of the places you’ve been and seen. ‘Tracing your steps’ won’t be difficult for those in future generations as they will be able to create a Google map with your movements. Creepy? More helpful I’d say.
Think about it all.
Whilst many berate how open we are with information today, I see this as a benefit. What better comfort to provide than a magnifying glass into your life for those you leave behind?