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What will you leave behind online when you are gone?
Social media isn’t just changing how we live; it’s also altering how we experience death. Every day, we tweet, post to FaceBook, upload photos to Flickr, and pour our hearts out on blogs – creating a staggering amount of revealing information and digital assets. That information lingers long after we are gone. An estimated 408,000 FaceBook users will die in 2011. What happens to all their personal content? Sometimes, it’s transformed into online memorials where friends and loved ones can share fond memories. But the internet is an open environment and those obits are accessible to a large, impersonal audience capable of leaving hurtful posts, and otherwise disrupting the mourning process. Academics are looking into how all this changes the way we grieve and entrepreneurs are jumping into the fray with businesses that deal with digital afterlife management. (Think: “I ________ hereby leave my Miley Cyrus fan fiction blog to my brother Rick.”) Do we need digital estate planners? What are the legal ramifications of our digital lives? Has the internet changed how you grieve?
Rob Walker, "Consumed" columnist for the New York Times Magazine; author of the recent cover story Ghosts in the Machine
Nathan Lustig, co-founder of Entrustet, a digital estate planning company