Preparing your digital media for your inevitable demise

Is there a digital life after death? Here are some ways you can manage your online data and virtual avatars before you pass on into the afterlife.

By Prakrit Dhondiyal Published Date
31 - Jan - 2014
| Last Updated
28 - May - 2014
Preparing your digital media for your inevitable demise

If there’s one thing that’s certain in life, it’s the fact that one day, regardless of whether you’d like to or not, you will die. A decade ago, sorting out your affairs would have involved a person in a suit, holding your last will and testament while your loved ones silently mourn your passing.

Today, all that aside, you have a variety of media and dozens of online profiles to keep in mind, and your loved ones have to deal with every Tom, Dick and Harry who knew you (or an avatar or username of yours) who wish to pay their respects to the person you were.

If taking over your life wasn’t enough, the Digital Age clings onto your coattails on your way to the afterlife, like your own personal little demon looking for a ride into paradise.

But analogies aside, with 2,405,518,376 internet users around the world (and counting), out of which more than 1.4 billion are on Facebook and other social networking websites, one must face the inescapable truth: “You have a digital side, which deserves closure too”.

The people who have an online presence can be roughly divided into four typecasts:
The Zeroes: These are the people who have an identity online, but couldn’t care less whether or not it existed. Their name shows up only because they had to make a LinkedIn profile for work, and would be completely at peace not having a virtual identity at all.
The Ones: The hyper social cyber freaks. To whom hourly tweets and Facebook posts are a second nature (if not their first). The people who live their cyber lives showing the world who they are. The ones to whom their online image is the be all and end all of things.
The Leets: The ones who exist behind the cloak-and-dagger of usernames, firewalls, multi-layer encryptions and proxies. The ghosts of the digital world who are happy watching from their cyber-pedestal, strategically coming out to show their hooded faces when they deem necessary (if at all).
The Zen: The Buddhists of the cyber world. The ones so comfortable balancing the cyber world with reality. They have a clear-cut distinction between both worlds, and prioritize accordingly.
Based on these typecasts, one can extrapolate their reactions to cyber death. The Zeroes wouldn’t really care what happened to their social profiles and online presence as a whole. They’d stay grounded in reality, very comfortable letting their Facebook page and WhatsApp profile gather pixelated dust and crumble to outdated data over time. The Ones would love to die knowing that their life has been immortalized online. In the open books of the cyber world, the Ones would make that extra effort to keeping their online avatars alive as long as possible. The Leets would be an interesting lot. Considering their stealthy nature, they would either leave behind a legacy for their names heirs to follow, or go out with one final act to brand the internet with their decal one last time. Both actions showing a hint of pride, but the latter is the spot saved for the stereotypical megalomaniac. The Zen may or may not take measures to wrap up their cyber affairs. If they do decide to do so, it would usually be out of concern for others, rather than their own ego.
Considering you’re reading this article, we’re sure you’re anything but a Zero. Keeping that in mind, here are some guidelines that may help you pass, knowing your virtual character is in safe hands.
You won't be listening to your music collection, where you're going
The Digit Checklist
Here’s Digit’s own checklist to make sure you don’t leave anything undone. Unlike leaving without car keys, dying makes it a little difficult to come back and pick up something you forgot about.
Letters from the afterlife for those closest to you.
  • Passwords for your several widespread social avatars.
  • Passwords for PayPal accounts, Europay accounts, and other net banking/ internet finance-based accounts.
  • Backup details – You may have backed up your greatest memories, cherished videos and other relevant data somewhere. Maybe on a physical hard drive, or maybe even on a password-protected cloud server.
  • Blog info and your online legacy – For all you online writers and bloggers out there who don’t intend to let all your hard work go unappreciated, even after you pass away. Remember to leave your content in the hands of someone you trust to continue the legacy you created.
  • Skeletons in your closet. Okay, maybe not a dead body. Maybe just digital proof that you killed someone. Or on a less dramatic note, possibly all that ‘tongue-in-cheek’ content you have hidden away for a rainy day that you wouldn’t want people other than a select few to see.
  • All those Steam/Desura/UPlay/Origin games you bought. I mean really, write them off, please. (P.S: Team Digit will take all you have and remember you very fondly for it).
It's always good to be prepared for the unknown
The Death Switch
Ever seen those whodunit movies where the ingenious criminal mastermind controls the guy who has a skeleton in his closet by threatening to leak his secret in the event of his death? Well, that’s actually possible. Which may not be good news for people who can be easily blackmailed, but it’s definitely good news for all those who are interested in passing their essential information (like bank account details and social networking passwords) to their nearest and dearest in case they die of unforeseeable causes. Death Switch is a website which deals with what we call ‘Information Insurance’. A death switch (or a dead man’s switch) is an automated system that prompts you for a password at a regular interval to make sure that you are still alive. If the password is not entered for a certain period of time, the system prompts you once more, after which, if no response is detected, it infers that you are either dead or critically disabled. At this point, it passes on your pre-scripted messages to the people you have named in the registration.
The Memorial Move
Technically, not something that you can do for yourself, but in the memory of a dear friend or family member that passed away, Facebook offers to convert said person’s profile into a memorial page. Essentially making it inaccessible, but still up and live, leaving the wall open for people to post their farewells. This prevents spam messaging from the late person’s profile, so people on their friend lists won’t get random invites for Farmville or Poker games. The memorial page also prevents anyone except confirmed friends from viewing the profile.
Make a Will
If that hadn’t struck you, you really need help. Make a will specifically for your digital life and entrust it to a lawyer or someone you can actually trust. The will would contain specific details of your various online accounts. From Facebook passwords and iCloud/Google Drive/Sky Drive access, consolidate the access to all your data - both, sensitive and casual. You may even assign a caretaker for your blog or Twitter ID, if you think you need to leave a legacy behind.
If you’re not much of a DIY person, there are several websites out there which will help you out with this. One such website is You Departed . You Departed (now called ‘Asset Lock’) saves your personal directives, last wishes, emails and messages to loved ones, banking passwords, or passwords of any kind, which will be delivered to anyone, as per your own request.
The Asset Lock Home Page
All said and done, here’s some leavetaking advice: Keep in mind that there is no way to maintaining your online posthumous existence without a trusted friend in real life. Technology of any kind can only get you so far. After all, the main reason for you to take any of these measures is to know that your cyber image is intact (or non-existent) after you pass. And the only way to do that is to have someone you can really trust to take care of it all when you’re gone.
So make a real friend or two.
Good ones.