It’s easy to imagine that future historians will have a hard time making sense of us. After all, unlike previous eras, their problem will be a surplus of information rather than a lack of it.
But in terms of loss, how do we as a society deal with life after death in the age of digital influence and overload?
Because when our loved ones leave behind what is often an enormous amount of virtual information, it can be really overwhelming and confusing to know how to move forward (or quite frankly, where to even start).
Luckily, though, there’s a growing field to help with this that is known as “digital legacy”. A digital legacy is the collection of online presences and information that a person owned or publicly shared within his or her life. This is typically made up of passwords, financial information, and social media accounts. There are several excellent resources, such as The Digital Legacy Association, The Digital Beyond, and Dead Social, which are specifically used to organize a person’s digital legacy in order to help their loved ones who they’ll be leaving behind to cope in their absence.
But what is the significance of this? What can you do with the digital legacy of your loved one, and how can it help your grieving process?
Check out this podcast with Apart of Me founder Louis and digital legacy specialists Paula Kiel and Morna O’Connor, where they discuss the growing field of death and digital legacy.
“Life is important and significant because it is finite, and because at some point there is an end to the relationship and that can’t be looked back on. And having something that repeats or rejuvenates it may be good for a while and help the grieving process but at the end people die and we have to do something with our ongoing experience of life.” -- Morna O’Connor
Paula is a doctoral candidate studying the way people intentionally curate a digital presence for after they die. Her Online After Death project is looking at websites that enable users to plan and prepare their online communication after their death.
Morna is a doctoral candidate researching digital-age bereavement at the University of Nottingham, UK. Her project, The Digital Memories Study, is exploring the experience of being bereaved of a person who has left behind digital traces.