As socially uncomfortable or macabre as it may seem, if you are reading this, then you ought to plan what will happen to the online ‘you’ in the event of your death. The average internet user has half-a-dozen types of accounts, including email, social networking, shopping and entertainment identities. I think in reality, most of us have dozens; it’s a bit scary to realise how much of our lives are conducted online under these accounts.
Most regular internet users have a partner who remains oblivious or unconcerned with the online life being led. If something did happen to you, would they know which sites you owned or used? Would they have user names or passwords? Would they even know how to schedule a post, tweet a message or share an update?
After a random pop quiz, I found that worryingly few people have a central spot to keep this information, and a similarly low number of partners have any idea how to log into any of the sites used by their spouse. Obviously, there are security issues if you store a document online or even on your laptop called “Passwords” or something similar. Try something really boring, like “cat food comparison spreadsheet” or “updated spoon collection photos”.
At the very least, let someone know where they can access important sites and email accounts, along with your instructions as to what they are to do with them. You may wish to have a sealed envelope with all of this information inside, ready to be opened at the time of the reading of your will. Although there doesn’t need to have a legally binding agreement in place, if you conduct business from an account or site, it’s always a good idea to seek specific advice pertaining to possible futures, when you die. The term “Power of Blog” is bandied around the blog-o-spere for an agreement between online friends who give each other the permission to access specific sites should the other die. Much of the time, these agreements have posts or information which is to be scheduled in order to let the wider online community know what has happened.
As far as the official guidelines from email services such as Hotmail, they will normally allow appointed next of kin to have full access to the accounts of those who have passed on; so long as there is a certificate of death sent through the appropriate channels. Some providers will copy what is on the server/site and hand over a disc with the information, rather than grant access.
Facebook has a policy in place to turn the user’s page into a memorial site, as long as their procedures and processes have been followed. Most other social networking sites will delete an account if there is a death certificate supplied.
If you have read this far and believe you don’t need to plan for any of this macabre stuff, then test out your online life link.
For one week, stop communicating in all digital forms. Don’t open your laptop, answer emails or use your phone. What sort of fall out would you expect as far as keeping your friendships, networking, business and career as a writer?
This week hiatus may assist you in weeding out unnecessary online distractions but it may also highlight how much we rely on being visible online. Start making your lists, plan to have a ‘power of blog’ and let another person know where they can find all of your online keys. In this digital age, having these plans are just as important as having an up to date will.
This post was prompted by a near death experience I had over the Easter Break. Without going into too much detail… take one semi trailer with two trailers filled with steel and hoot it along down hill. Slam it into the side of a tiny little car and push it across a busy road at peak hour, shove it up the curb, nearly tip it over and wrap it round a pole.
The world seems a brighter, more beautiful spot every morning for me. And thanks yes—I am fine… or perhaps I am ghostwriting…(groan)