The chief problem about death, incidentally, is the fear that there may be no afterlife — a depressing thought, particularly for those who have bothered to shave. Also, there is the fear that there is an afterlife but no one will know where it’s being held.
- Woody Allen
I’ve been thinking about Death lately. Not mine, specifically. Others. We’re spending part of the winter in Arizona, and most of our closest neighbours are considerably older than us. I fully expect to see a decline in the number of occupants at any time.
Emergency Services/The Fire Department have been on our street twice so far, but one time was to remove a rattlesnake from a garage and the other was to put a new key in the lock box just outside our front door. The Fire Department seems to only have one daily driver – a big shiny fire truck – so when the truck, and two or three burly young firemen arrive in our tiny cul-de-sac, it is quite the production.
I’ve also been thinking about the Afterlife. I’m not inclined to believe in Heaven and Hell – not as locales I will be spending eternity in, at any rate. No, I’m thinking of Data Afterlife. Thanks to the Internet, little bits of my life will float around forever – or at least until Google figures out how to put an expiry date on blog posts that detail how much snow there was at the Red House during the great storm of ’11.
In addition to all those bits, there are the websites and accounts that require you to register a username and password before you can access any information. If left unattended, long after you have departed this world your Facebook Account will be sending your Email Account Happy Birthday messages.
Clearly I need to have an Exit Strategy in place. If my ultimate demise is slow enough, I will have time to cancel all those online accounts. But if my death is sudden, as it surely would be if that big saguaro cactus next to my lawn chair toppled over while I was engrossed in reading a book – well, I just wouldn’t have time to react, let alone post my farewell on this blog.
I started my Exit Strategy with a list. First I thought about all the Online Accounts that create a Public Presence. My list included a few of the following (you can likely add many more to this list):
- special interest websites
- business websites
- gaming accounts
Then I thought about my private accounts, such as:
- news readers
- credit cards
- retail purchases
- cloud web storage
Once I had my list, I thought about which ones I would want to close down (or have someone close down for me if I did suffer Death by Cactus). The most important one could be my email accounts. If they were hacked in my absence, all the addresses in the account would be fair game to the hacker – and all my friends would receive Viagra Spam.
Any account that had access to any of my banking information should also be closed down.
Any personal information that is stored on the web should also be removed. That would include personal photos and documents.
As for all the rest, I thought about:
- What content I was willing to leave in the hands of all the insensitive, inappropriate, mischievous people who might take advantage of my absence.
- Who was going to tell my Facebook friends that I wouldn’t be reading my timeline any time soon?
- Who was going to say goodbye to all my faithful blog followers?
- If I leave an account open, how long does it remain the property of my survivors? When does post mortem copyright expire? (This doesn’t actually apply to my content, but it might to yours.)
- How do I want my online presence dealt with. Do I want all the information removed? Do I want it left online?
Last, but not least, I am working on an Action Plan (if the Canadian Government can have an Action Plan, so can I:
- I’m making a list of all my internet accounts, with their URLs and my usernames. I’ll state what I want done with each account. I’ll print this document, then hand print in my passwords and file it in a safe place. I’ll try to keep it up to date.
- I’ll decide who will carry out my wishes. (I have no problem with The Car Guy or one of my children seeing all my online content.)
That pretty much wraps up my thoughts this week about Death and the Afterlife. How about you?
As for a future life, every man must judge for himself between conflicting vague probabilities.