You can find me on the internet when I'm dead

I’ve decided that I’m going to upload my whole personality to the internet.

That way, after I die, nobody will have to miss me. They can just go to my YouTube channel, my blog, my Pinterest profile, and there I’ll be, in digital scrapbook form.

Isn’t that what we’re really doing, with all this social media? Trying to leave an imprint of our personality somewhere? In my day job, I get to see some of the cool things big companies are doing with technology. And to be honest? The algorithm that everyone is chasing right now is distilling someone’s personal preferences to predict what stuff you’d want. So in essence, they’re creating an algorithm that could tell you what someone who is already dead would have wanted, if they’d lived to see it. That makes my brain hurt a little.

Yesterday I read an excerpt from Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist, the essay entitled “What Might Have Been.” She pretty much nailed one of the aspects of grieving, that when someone you love dies, every big occasion afterwards has a hole in it where that person might have been. For me, that even equates to television shows that I wonder if my mom would’ve liked, or what she would have thought about things like Facebook and Pinterest.

It got me thinking about the trail of breadcrumbs I leave across the internet. What if someday, some company like Backupify collects all that and creates a digital time capsule of someone’s personality? I wonder if people would really want something like the “holo-empathic crystal” from X-Men #138, the crystal ball an alien race gave Jean Grey’s parents that contained the essence of her personality after she died (of course, being Jean, she got better.)

Maybe most normal people just want to move on. Maybe this slow fade of the details over the years is necessary. It’s hard to know what would be a comfort, and what would just be another painful reminder. How weird will it be when part of your estate planning is figuring out what happens with all that digital realty, all those virtual assets you’ve accumulated over the years? I suppose we’ve already arrived there; people just aren’t talking about it a lot yet.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not planning on leaving for the hereafter any time soon. It was just something I was thinking about, as I created a playlist of songs on YouTube. And it made me think about my reasons for curating and creating particular pieces of content. If I’m creating a digital echo of my personality, is it actually an accurate one? Or is it a pose, created to cultivate a particular impression for goals that won’t matter after I’m gone? It’s made me consider whether I’m being myself online, or trying to create a “personal brand” (BLECH.)

What about you? Would you want that kind of digital distillation of a loved one? Is it really that different from going through their photo albums and collections of random tchotckies?

Leave a Reply