RIP Online Self

We had a chat over dinner last night about what would happen to all of our online accounts should anything dreadful happen to us. Forgive the apparent morbidity of this post but I wanted to get my thoughts down. We wondered what would happen? Did we care? Would we simply disappear? Would we feel sad if we saw each other’s social media accounts popping up still? Would treasure-map1it upset us if people were writing on walls, tagging us or whatever with no control? Would we like our online friends and communities to know what had happened or be happy to simply fade away? Lots of questions… in the modern world it’s not just about funeral instructions and leaving behind the treasure map.

We decided as a family, all for one and one for all, that we would like our online affairs taken care of, controlled, managed, terminated, demise announced and such and of course the only way we could achieve that is to know each other’s passwords and user names to everything.

So we agreed that we were happy to have this common knowledge at least among the three of us (ma, son and daughter) and so we decided to each produce a document containing all of our online accounts, usernames and passwords which we would print and store in our jointly accessible family safe on top of which is a phone number and email address of a person who knows the code but doesn’t realise it. We thought of putting a copy in our cloud but we decided againstimages (1) it not trusting the security. We decided to include everything from Amazon to Zoopla including shopping accounts, banks, utilities and social media. We had fun (so morbid) discussing our death announcements on Facebook but in spite of the light hearted and at times flippant approach we acknowledged that it is important to have had this discussion. At first I thought I didn’t care what happened but then I thought there were things I would need someone to know and there were things that would obviously distress my children and myself God forbid anything happened to them and so it really did need consideration.

So we began right there and then to compile a list and I can tell you it’s pretty startling the amount of accounts we hold and little wonder that my house phone has been ripped from the wall and thrown into a corner because of the amount of nonsense calls I receive daily. How many things do I subscribe to? All essential to life of course.

We all started with the most important at the top and came up with a proforma design to follow from there so we didn’t miss anything:

Social media – Facebook, Blogs, Twitter, You Tube

Fifootprint-logo4nancial – banks, utilities, paypal, insurance, student finance

Subscriptions – magazines, journals, professional registration bodies, work related privilege schemes

Shopping – Amazon, Ebay etc

Travel – Airmiles, Trip Advisor, hotel and travel loyalty schemes, railcard

Email – we decided to leave this until last to deal with as it might assist in managing or deleting the rest

We leave such a big footprint on the virtual world without realising it and I guess it’s prudent to think of erasing that footprint (or parts of it) when the time comes and knowing what people close to you would wish to have done with their various accounts, it’s almost as important an issue as organ donation or where you want your ashes sprinkling, which is where this subject stemmed from as we’d been discussing our thoughts on organ donation when my son declared that he was happy to leave anyone his YouTube account.

I often see the ‘RIP’ accounts made on Facebook for people who have passed away and I wonder who set them up? Was it close family who needed to offer a place for people to ESP_blue_condshare their thoughts and memories like an online book of condolence to help comfort themselves in their loss or are they more often set up by people who really don’t have a ‘right’ or permission to do so? I know with deaths of youngsters that often their friends set up these accounts and I often think there should be some permission sought from the family.  Just my opinion and I know people mean well.

I would hate, God forbid it happening, to see a page full of poorly spelled condolences (forgive my pedantry) from people who didn’t really know my child and this has been compounded today. I saw a parent of a child who had died comment on their own account that they had asked Facebook to close the ‘RIP’ account created as people were arguing on it, sharing inaccurate information about the death and guessing at the cause of death.

This was obviously very distressing to the family and as much as we would like to ignore that, I can imagine how at a time like that there would be a compulsion to see what was being written about your child or loved one. It’s all way too much out of my control for me, I wouldn’t like it and I don’t comment on these sites or pages, choosing rather to send a a personal message to people I don’t know so well and of course with those I do know well sending an even more personal hand written message or making a visit. I know when my father died how comforting the heart felt messages in the cards were and how lovely it was to read a tribute to him in the local paper acknowledging all he’d done for the local community and also to read some of the letters sent by people in his life who we really didn’t know but who clearly he had touched with his kindness, humour and his great big personality. I’m sure I would have had to read a FB page dedicated to his memory but not sure I would have liked everything I read there if some of these I see are anything to go by. Some trolls are spiteful and heartless and I’m sure seek these pages out for effect and by their very nature they are usually public.

I know a lot of people take huge comfort from having social media accounts of loved ones who have passed on remaining open, who see it as a way of letting out thoughts and continuing to communicate with the person who has passed. I have seen people who have clung to social media accounts of deceased loved ones posting often and commenting on other posts consistently. Yet sadly often a year or so down the line the heartimprove-your-writing-resting breaking bitter messages start to appear to all the ‘friends’ who no longer post messages on the wall, from bereaved people who are clearly very upset to feel that the person who they will never forget is slowly fading in the memories of their friends and acquaintances and they find themselves feeling startlingly alone in their grief. This might not be the case of course, we all remember in our own way and some may  have just decided they needed to move away from the social media shrine and remember privately in their own way.

I saw a page set up recently to arrange an annual memorial dinner for a young guy who passed away, the first year saw over 30 people attend and three years on there were 5 people at the dinner and the mother posted how she was closing the group because ‘fairweather friends had forgotten her child and couldn’t be bothered to attend his memorial anymore’. People protested that they remembered her child in their own way and would never forget and pointed out that they had relocated to other parts of the country, had other responsibilities and triempty-table-fied to assure her that they did care but I’m sure she suffered terrible heart ache over this apparent lack of regard for the anniversary of their friend’s passing and perhaps it only added to her never ending grief and sorrow. Perhaps it hurt her afresh to realise that one day there would be nobody at the table for dinner, nobody to remember.

Of course some people never had an online presence and passed before they got to grips with technology, I always say that my dad would have simply LOVED the internet, he loved information and he loved to write. He would have been in his element having all of this at his finger tips and would surely have had a blog and a Facebook account filled with pictures of his adored grandchildren but he passed before it really became a way of life. Some people use the internet to give tumblr_static_profiletheir loved ones an ever lasting presence in an arguably more sophisticated way through blogging, memoires and sharing of their talents which the world was never able to see before and that keeping alive of the person can be a tremendous comfort and passing on of their legacy no matter how small. I guess that kind of virtual footprint is one that they never want to see erased or deleted.

I guess in some respects the closing of social media accounts, clearing out the online virtual presence in the modern technological world somehow parallels the actual wardrobe1copyphysical clearing out of the real person’s belongings and is a very personal thing. Some people have to have a loved one’s belongings removed from the home as fast as possible not able to live with the day to day reminder and others can not live without the day to day reminder and never manage to clear out the belongings and for some it is a matter of time, letting things go when they feel able and ready.

Perhaps having this discussion while it’s possible and knowing what the person who owned that presence would want to happen to it is prudent and will make those decisions we would rather not have to ever make a little easier when or if the time comes. Maybe we weren’t just being morbid to think of these things but doing all we can to make life easier for those who get to carry on living it a while longer.

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10 thoughts on “RIP Online Self”

    1. Never thought of it before but as I said from our discussion this evolved. Time for me to bid adieu to the blogging world again now and get moving into the hills, we were delayed by a chore but that’s accomplished now so off we go! We’ll finish off our lists when we get back before me and my boy head home. Feels like an age since I was there.

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  1. This is a good idea. One that I hadn’t really thought about. This WordPress account is one of my only social media outlets, but I know my daughters would want to have access or at least copies of my writings. Perhaps our online info is a good thing to stick in the safety deposit with the will.

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    1. Definitely. Gosh my daughter said that my blog is like a journal now and full of advice she would love to always have to refer to throughout her life. We don’t think when we lay our thoughts down so casually that they may have an impact on our loved ones long after we are no more.

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  2. Good point, I’ve had similar thoughts before. On the idea of our huge virtual foot print: It seems ridiculously sad that despite running dozens social media accounts, an individual has never been so isolated in any previous eras, don’t you think?… Here the need to eliminate all accounts after departure steps in.

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    1. So true. I use social media to enhance and compliment my life and love it for making it so easy to keep in real time contact with friends overseas or even in other parts of the country but I love the world of online friends it opens up too. For some this is their main or only social life and some may find that sad but it is preferable to having nobody and awesome for people who are housebound. I know a few bloggers in just the few months I’be been blogging here who have used this as inspiration to go out and meet people which is great. Besides wouldn’t it be great sometimes if we could switch our real life friends off? I know it sounds mean but sometimes I crave solitude.

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  3. I think this is a brilliant discussion to have, with family members. I am the back up email for my grandparents mainly because I am their tech support when things go wrong but should the need ever arise I can manage the situation.
    Families dont like to discuss the what if’s, but we should because we never know good or bad what is going to happen. I would like to think that my parents could close my facebook or have access to my photographs on sites that I have signed up to.
    Well done to your family on being forward thinking.

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    1. It’s really a good chat to have if you can. I remember my dad was very specific about his funeral wishes and it was good to know what he wanted rather than being at a loss, although not everyone took notice of what he wanted which was very sad but that’s my family for you.

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  4. Not morbid at all, Michelle. Dying is part of living, and it is a wise thing to do. I’ve been thinking along the same lines of creating a list of websites and passwords. I keep saying to my husband he must learn how to use eftpos, the atm and cards. I always use mine when we shop – always! and he hasn’t caught up with the changes in a hands-on way. I must educate him about our online banking system too, and Bpay. I just better not die yet! 😀

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    1. I guess we’d been thinking more about our inevitable demise more, when people around you are dropping like flies it makes you aware of your own mortality I guess. Mother of course is not one of them and has bounced back from the brink as usual 🙂

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