Practical Technology

for practical people.

Dying online


Yesterday, I got a LinkedIn connection suggestion about a former co-worker. Happens all the time. The only thing that was different about this one was that he had died about five years ago. Ow. It was a strange moment.

It’s a sort of moment I may have to get used to. While we continue to shuffle off this mortal coil as often as ever — no gets out of life alive — our online footprints remain behind us. Sometimes, though, as with LinkedIn, these reminders of mortality catch me by surprise. It’s a surprise I could do without.

To the best of my knowledge, none of the social networks have any mechanisms in place to deal with the death of their members. There is no way for Facebook to set my status to Dead. And, given the recent eruption of fake death reports on Twitter, that’s a good thing.

So, what can you do about this? Well, I recommend acceptance. If you see death coming sooner rather than later, you can do what intellectual and writer Christopher Hitchens has done and tell the world. But you don’t need to be famous author to do this. A fellow technology writer friend of mine, Chris Gulker, has told the world of what he calls “the final upgrade” in his own blog. I admire their courage.

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