May 31, 2010


How to Prepare for Your Digital Death

mskniss Contributor
By Amy Kniss, eHow Contributing Writer
(41 Ratings)

Prepare for your digital death.
Prepare for your digital death.
iStock, ianmcdonnell
Your mother always warned you to wear clean underwear, lest you (or she) be humiliated when you're caught dead in dirty drawers. Dying before clearing away your dirty digital laundry (like unfiltered IM, politically incorrect emails and overall TMI) is just as bad if not worse, since it colors how everyone in your social network remembers you.

Those of us stretched thin over social networks -- with multiple email accounts and never-ending status updates -- have much to lose if we don't take the proper precautions to protect our online legacy. Unless we plan ahead we risk being (at best) being forgotten or (at worst) over-exposed in front of our fellow social networkers. (Imagine mum finding her way in to your "Direct Message" tweets to your former flame.)

Dressing as a vampire, zombie or other specimen of undead on Halloween provides a playfully haunting reminder of our own mortality. Vampires and zombies fear neither death nor social shunning; if only the rest of us were so lucky.

But for mere mortals who need to think ahead, read on for instructions on prepping for your own digital death. If you want to keep your family from realizing that you really were the black sheep and save your postmortem reputation -- online -- keep reading and embrace your digital death like a zombie on Halloween.
Difficulty: Moderately Challenging

Things You'll Need:

  • Safety deposit box
  • List of passwords and login info for social networks and online accounts
  • Trusted person
  • Final Status Update
  1. Step 1
    Appraise your digital assets today. Write down which social networking sites you belong to, what you use each one for and how often you use each. Rank them from highest to lowest, in terms of their priority in your life.

    If you've invested half of your waking hours on Facebook last year, then it probably ranks at the top of your digital priority list. If you're a workaholic and LinkedIn is where you live online then it would be your priority. If your loyal Twitter or blog followers would worry if you suddenly ceased posting, then these are audiences you should plan to have notified of your death.
  2. Step 2
    Protect your loved ones from learning more than they need to about your personal proclivities after you die: create a "black box" for the secrets you want to keep indefinitely. Begin by archiving your email and private messages into a single email account; take the account's secrets (and password) to the grave by continuing to filter sketchy, pervy or overly personal e-communications to this secret account.
  3. Step 3
    Use an alias to set up the account. You'll be protected even if your dearly departed catch wind of the account: it's difficult to prove next-of-kin status if the account isn't registered to you. Even a copy of your death certificate and proof of power of attorney won't be enough to obtain the password to your secret account or a copy of the email, according to the terms of use by major email service providers.
  4. Step 4
    Filter digital messages you want to preserve and keep private, in perpetuity, to the alias email account. Make sure to delete sent messages from the account you use to forward the messages. Also, delete all instant message conversations you do not want archived or relayed to your next of kin. Clearing your inbox and IM records of anything you may find embarrassing or too risqué to share with family or friends, even after death, makes it easier to rest in peace.
  5. Step 5
    Select a friend or family member (or lawyer) you trust to notify your virtual friends of your non-virtual death. You'll need to decide whether you will designate the person for the task in your will or shall rely on a less formal agreement; whichever you choose, it's best to ask your designee if he or she is up to the task of notifying members of your social network of your death.
  6. Step 6
    Finally, write your "Final Status Update." This post will be used to notify acquaintances that don't warrant a call, email or funeral invite (like LinkedIn contacts, Facebook friends that don't make the cut for personal notification, members of your Fantasy Football league, and other digital hangers-on) to notify them of your death. Your Final Status Update should reflect your personality and serve as an epitaph for your online legacy. Keep it short and sincere, unless you're known for being a caustic jerk online, in which case members of your social network may come together to celebrate your passing rather than mourn you.
  7. Step 7
    Make sure whomever you select to carry out your last wishes online has access to your Final Status Update when the time comes, knows where and when to post it and understands who to reach out to among your closer online contacts, and how to notify them personally (call, email, in person) of your death. Also, provide a list and contact information for those digital contacts you want notified of your death via a personal email or phone call. Make sure to specify the method of notification you prefer, if it matters to you.
  8. Step 8
    Remember to accompany the text of the post with a list of sites where your Final Status Update should be posted. This will require that you inventory your login information: usernames and passwords for all your online accounts so that your designee can easily perform the notifications, with access to your login info. Update this document on a regular basis; whether your updates occur once a week (if you owe money to the mob or have a terminal illness) or once a year (if you're healthy and aren't worried about getting hit by a bus tomorrow or next week) is up to you. Store this document in a safety deposit box or with your other sensitive documents.
Tips & Warnings
  • Include the photo sharing sites you use and a note about how many photos you've uploaded; this is less important if you have copies of the photos stored on your computer, where relatives can still access them after you die.
  • If you don't trust your designee 100%, you may opt to leave your login info in a safety deposit box and store the key to the safety deposit box in an envelope with the designee's name on it, with your other sensitive documents. That will ensure the designee gets the login info, but not before you die.
  • Hotmail, Yahoo! and Gmail will provide CD copies of your emails to a relative who can provide a copy of your death certificate and show of power of attorney, but not the password to your account.

No comments:

Post a Comment