Today I am very pleased to have Ken Mueller participate in my ghost in the post series. I met Ken through, whom else but Gini Dietrich. Ken is also in a tribe I inhabit and is a very creative and prolific writer. This is an interesting post indeed and I think it will certainly give you pause for thought; enjoy.
Let’s talk about death, shall we?
Not to be morbid, and it is a rather unpleasant topic, but one I was asked to think about when a local newspaper reporter asked to interview me about social media and death. The gist of the interview, at least at the beginning, was what happens to our social properties when we die. Obviously if we pass on, our Facebook, Twitter, and other online entities live on.
Not too long ago a friend of ours from another state passed away after a battle with cancer. He actually had blogged through the process, which not only provided him with a cathartic way of processing his situation, but despite his condition, his hopeful tone helped his friends and family deal with his eventual death. His family has left his Facebook page in place, and friends and family continue to use it as an ongoing online memorial to him.
And now that Facebook is converting to a newer timeline interface, our pages can be virtual scrapbooks, and even headstones, if you will, once we die. Living time capsules which can be visited by loved ones, in much the same way we might visit a grave site in a cemetery. Writing on the wall of a deceased person seems, to me, at least, a bit more meaningful or real, than talking to a tombstone.
Since Social Media is relatively new in the whole scheme of things, most of us haven’t thought about it in relation to death, particularly our own. After all, we’re all going to die.
Everything we post online is a permanent reminder of who we are, or were. Pre-Social Media, our legacy was determined by what we did and how others chose to record our life. Now, we are writing and sharing our own legacy and obituary every day. Every update, every post, every photo, becomes a lasting part of who we are, for better or for worse.
If that’s the case, what should we do and why should we care?
- Think before you post – Our lives will no longer be boiled down to a short summary in the paper known as an obituary. Those are usually written by people who love us and choose to highlight only our best and brightest moments and achievements. But with Social Media, we are writing our legacy and obituary every day. If we live a less than exemplary life, no amount of sugar-coating will change our perception of you. We’re pretty darn close to living out the Truman Show every day in our own lives.
- Plan for the inevitable – What happens after you die? We write wills and come up with plans for the disposition of our estate, but what about our Facebook pages or Twitter accounts? Do we still want people writing on our walls? That’s a decision we each need to make, and perhaps should make sure that a spouse, parent, or someone else, ultimately has access to our log-in information. Do we care what happens? Or do we want them to make those decisions based on how they feel after our passing?
- Will you continue to be social after you’re gone? – I’ve actually joked a bit about the fact that I have a few plug-ins installed on my website that will keep me tweeting even after I’m gone. I actually think that’s kind of funny, but for those who follow me on Twitter, as well as friends and family, I suppose it could be a bit morbid or disconcerting. And of course followers who don’t know that I’m gone, might continue to try to engage me. Do we really want to have dead people tweeting and posting updates, whether they are automated or not?
So think about your online presence, both in terms of how you present yourself, how you want to be remembered, and also how you want your online profiles to be maintained (or not) after you’re gone.
Is the obituary you are writing every day really how you want others to remember you?
Ken Mueller is the owner of Inkling Media, a Social Media consultancy in Lancaster, PA. He can often be found working from his porch with his dog, Shadow. And unlike his beloved Phillies and Eagles, he is very much alive.