Saturday, May 25, 2024

What planning my digital afterlife at age 27 taught me about my millennial FOMO

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Online platforms purging inactive accounts made me worry about my digital afterlife.

Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Online platforms purging inactive accounts made me worry about my digital afterlife.
Digital-legacy tools such as MyWishes give you some control over your online presence after death.
I used it to plan my digital afterlife and found the experience both difficult and cathartic.

Today, as platforms increasingly reckon with the inevitability that dead accounts will eventually outnumber those of the living, digital-legacy companies have emerged to fill the gap.

Having spent most of my life documenting my thoughts, feelings, and experiences online, I want my digital legacy passed on, rather than forever blocked off.

A few digital platforms, such as AppleMeta, and Google, offer provisions for passing on or memorializing accounts. But recently, X, formerly known as Twitter, was called out by grieving relatives for purging accounts belonging to their dead loved ones.

And though password-manager tools exist for me to hand over social accounts to my next of kin, I found no singular place where I could list specific instructions about what I wanted my digital afterlife to look like.

I tried UK-based MyWishes, a free digital-legacy tool, so I could leave detailed notes about my digital accounts for my loved ones.

James Norris, the founder of MyWishes, told Insider that when he started the company — then named DeadSocial — it was likened to science fiction and even compared to “Black Mirror” in 2014. But the normalization of memorialized accounts and grieving online have made the prospect of planning your digital afterlife far less absurd, he added.

To be clear, MyWishes lets you create only a nonbinding plan for your digital accounts. It doesn’t allow you to pass along information such as passwords or give your loved ones full control of your social media. 

Still, it’s a useful starting point while planning your digital afterlife.

With all this information, I took a deep dive into planning my digital legacy. As someone still considered young, I found the experience to be difficult but cathartic.

What began as a way to come up with a digital will led me down the rabbit hole of planning my own funeral

A collage of features on MyWishes, including a digital will, a funeral playlist, funeral wishes, and goodbye messages.

Insider/Kai Xiang Teo

I began by using MyWishes to create a nonbinding statement of what should happen to my digital accounts to guide my loved ones after I die.

When the website prompted me about my Google account, I decided it should be managed by a confidant — who can decide if he wants to archive or delete the photos and videos I have on there.

This process also led me to explore the site’s other features: outlining my funeral wishes, curating a funeral playlist — I wanted to strike an even balance between songs that were hopeful and songs that would leave no dry eyes in the room — and writing up and recording a goodbye message.

Saying goodbye was the hardest but most cathartic part

The goodbye message playing on my MyWishes profile.

Insider/Kai Xiang Teo

Notably, the goodbye messages you leave on MyWishes aren’t private.

They go up on your public profile — much like how a social network works. Anyone can access these after a trusted contact you nominate informs the company that you’ve died using a special code they receive via email.

Staring at a blank document titled “Kai Final Goodbye.doc,” I was at a loss for what to write. 

I’m a 27-year-old who constantly experiences the fear of missing out and has all the social anxiety of an overcaffeinated workaholic, so it’s only natural that most of what came to my mind were regrets and all the things I’d yet to do.

And those didn’t feel appropriate as my last parting words.

I wasn’t sure whether my age had something to do with my unease. But according to Norris, MyWishes isn’t targeted at a specific age group — death visits everyone eventually, after all.

Andy Ho, an associate professor of psychology and medicine at the Nanyang Technological University who specializes in deathcare, told Insider using such tools to exercise autonomy over death was important.

“It is so common for us to keep it at the periphery of our lives, thinking that if we keep it at bay, it might not come,” he said. “But we can change that perspective. We’re talking about death now because we want to live well and die well.”

With that in mind, I wound up recording a goodbye about my fears of never having enough time, my worry that I don’t say “I love you” enough, and my enduring wish that my loved ones make peace with their friends and bring doom upon their enemies.

While MyWishes can’t replace talking to your loved ones about your wishes, it’s useful

I shared my goodbye messages with friends — they were forewarned that this was merely a drill.

One of my friends said she was “too much of a romantic to use a website like this.” Another wasn’t sure whether he could escape the worry of how secure it would be to entrust something so important to a company.

Still, I appreciated how this experience gave us an opportunity to talk about a typically taboo topic and make plans for it together.

Ultimately, as comprehensive as MyWishes is when it comes to planning out what should happen to your digital content after you die, I think that it can’t quite replace a conversation with your loved ones about end-of-life planning — but hey, it’s a good starting point.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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Online platforms purging inactive accounts made me worry about my digital afterlife.

Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Online platforms purging inactive accounts made me worry about my digital afterlife.
Digital-legacy tools such as MyWishes give you some control over your online presence after death.
I used it to plan my digital afterlife and found the experience both difficult and cathartic.

Today, as platforms increasingly reckon with the inevitability that dead accounts will eventually outnumber those of the living, digital-legacy companies have emerged to fill the gap.

Having spent most of my life documenting my thoughts, feelings, and experiences online, I want my digital legacy passed on, rather than forever blocked off.

A few digital platforms, such as AppleMeta, and Google, offer provisions for passing on or memorializing accounts. But recently, X, formerly known as Twitter, was called out by grieving relatives for purging accounts belonging to their dead loved ones.

And though password-manager tools exist for me to hand over social accounts to my next of kin, I found no singular place where I could list specific instructions about what I wanted my digital afterlife to look like.

I tried UK-based MyWishes, a free digital-legacy tool, so I could leave detailed notes about my digital accounts for my loved ones.

James Norris, the founder of MyWishes, told Insider that when he started the company — then named DeadSocial — it was likened to science fiction and even compared to “Black Mirror” in 2014. But the normalization of memorialized accounts and grieving online have made the prospect of planning your digital afterlife far less absurd, he added.

To be clear, MyWishes lets you create only a nonbinding plan for your digital accounts. It doesn’t allow you to pass along information such as passwords or give your loved ones full control of your social media. 

Still, it’s a useful starting point while planning your digital afterlife.

With all this information, I took a deep dive into planning my digital legacy. As someone still considered young, I found the experience to be difficult but cathartic.

What began as a way to come up with a digital will led me down the rabbit hole of planning my own funeral

A collage of features on MyWishes, including a digital will, a funeral playlist, funeral wishes, and goodbye messages.

Insider/Kai Xiang Teo

I began by using MyWishes to create a nonbinding statement of what should happen to my digital accounts to guide my loved ones after I die.

When the website prompted me about my Google account, I decided it should be managed by a confidant — who can decide if he wants to archive or delete the photos and videos I have on there.

This process also led me to explore the site’s other features: outlining my funeral wishes, curating a funeral playlist — I wanted to strike an even balance between songs that were hopeful and songs that would leave no dry eyes in the room — and writing up and recording a goodbye message.

Saying goodbye was the hardest but most cathartic part

The goodbye message playing on my MyWishes profile.

Insider/Kai Xiang Teo

Notably, the goodbye messages you leave on MyWishes aren’t private.

They go up on your public profile — much like how a social network works. Anyone can access these after a trusted contact you nominate informs the company that you’ve died using a special code they receive via email.

Staring at a blank document titled “Kai Final Goodbye.doc,” I was at a loss for what to write. 

I’m a 27-year-old who constantly experiences the fear of missing out and has all the social anxiety of an overcaffeinated workaholic, so it’s only natural that most of what came to my mind were regrets and all the things I’d yet to do.

And those didn’t feel appropriate as my last parting words.

I wasn’t sure whether my age had something to do with my unease. But according to Norris, MyWishes isn’t targeted at a specific age group — death visits everyone eventually, after all.

Andy Ho, an associate professor of psychology and medicine at the Nanyang Technological University who specializes in deathcare, told Insider using such tools to exercise autonomy over death was important.

“It is so common for us to keep it at the periphery of our lives, thinking that if we keep it at bay, it might not come,” he said. “But we can change that perspective. We’re talking about death now because we want to live well and die well.”

With that in mind, I wound up recording a goodbye about my fears of never having enough time, my worry that I don’t say “I love you” enough, and my enduring wish that my loved ones make peace with their friends and bring doom upon their enemies.

While MyWishes can’t replace talking to your loved ones about your wishes, it’s useful

I shared my goodbye messages with friends — they were forewarned that this was merely a drill.

One of my friends said she was “too much of a romantic to use a website like this.” Another wasn’t sure whether he could escape the worry of how secure it would be to entrust something so important to a company.

Still, I appreciated how this experience gave us an opportunity to talk about a typically taboo topic and make plans for it together.

Ultimately, as comprehensive as MyWishes is when it comes to planning out what should happen to your digital content after you die, I think that it can’t quite replace a conversation with your loved ones about end-of-life planning — but hey, it’s a good starting point.

Read the original article on Business Insider
Avatar

Read more

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