Digital Footprints: Your Online Legacy

Since you’re reading this article, you are probably reading it online. You may have even found it via Twitter or Facebook. Besides getting much of our news and information online, many of us love social networking sites (SNS) where we can interact with friends, colleagues, and other like-minded souls.

A recent Pew Internet study, called Social Networking Sites and Our Lives, found that 79% of American adults said they used the Internet. 47% of adults or 59% of Internet users, say they use at least one SNS. This is close to double what it was in 2008. The study also found that the average age of adult SNS users shifted from 33 in 2008 to 38 in 2010. Over half of all adult SNS users are now over the age of 35.

For those involved in the blogging world long enough, most have probably experienced learning about the death of a fellow blogger or online friend. It’s never easy and usually a gut-wrenching shock. As the years go by, it happens more often. We live so much of our lives online. But what happens to our online personas when we die?

The Digital Beyond is a website that explores these issues in-depth. The creators of the website, Evan Carroll and John Romano, wrote a book called Your Digital Afterlife. In an NPR interview, Romano suggests that a Digital Executor be named to handle digital belongings. He explains, “It’s very possible that the person who’s handling your estate may not be the person who has the technical understanding to take care of your digital things.” They both suggest creating an inventory of online accounts, so the Digital Executor has all necessary information.

In this era of Facebook, another aspect of death online is leaving tributes on the walls of those who have recently passed. It’s a way for people to come together, remember the person, and to grieve. However, sometimes not everyone has been notified of the death. For a close family member to learn about a relative’s passing via SNS is obviously not the ideal.

Blogger and attorney Tom Stasiuk wrote about his experience where a friend’s family learned about his death on Facebook. News spread so quickly that the family hadn’t even been notified before.

Sometimes the speed of the online world may need to slow down a bit to keep pace with and respect for our lives offline. Making our way through the Internet presents situations and challenges that many of us never dreamed of. But as we each share our experiences, maybe we can all help one another to make it a bit easier.

By: Lisa C. Johnson


About AfterSteps

AfterSteps is an online end-of-life planning platform with educational resources and tools to create your plan, store it, and transfer it to your designated beneficiaries.
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