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… whither goest my online persona?

Yesterday my Twitter pal Nicchick posted a link to this article, which asked the question – “What happens to all my social networking information when I die?”.  And Nicola said it was something she hadn’t thought about before. Well I have! Quite a lot, actually. And when I told Nicola about this she suggested I write something about it. So here we go…

I suppose for most people the notion of “leaving things behind” when one dies is still a theoretical rather than practical concept, in spite of the fact that we are obviously all going to die at some point. But since being diagnosed with Stage IV cancer almost two years ago – and given a 50/50 chance of surviving for five years – the idea of dying is one quite near (though not dear) to my heart. Though I admit that living in a state of semi-denial a lot of the time is what helps keep me going. But in the end I cannot deny that this is a very real threat and so it often brings me to places that most people prefer to avoid, thinking they still have time to think about such things. Such as, what’s going to happen to my self-hosted website, my blogs and all my social media stuff once I am no more.

Of course I am assuming that I will have some advance warning that my number is about to come up, but as presumably well-meaning folk seem to like to point out – I could be hit by a bus tomorrow. Which I suppose is true enough, though most people don’t have an out of control bus actually aimed at them with their name on it. But I digress…

The thought first came to me when I paid for the CSS update on WordPress.com for this blog. As it is my main personal blog, though not self-hosted, I wanted to have a bit more control over things like font and design. But later it hit me… what happens when I’m not around to make the annual payments? Will this blog just shift back to the default theme and look icky? What if I wrote to WordPress.com about this … would they cut me some slack and keep my blog alive after I’m gone with the same CSS changes? Pretty please?

As for my self-hosted website … clearly that will go phhhhtt! once I am no longer paying for it. I feel a bit sad about that, especially for my beloved Sevilla Tapas. Perhaps I should do a basic WP.com version of Sevilla Tapas that could go live when I am dead – it would be a shame to have all that very nice info go to waste (though of course it would  all become dated after a year or so).

And what about my Fotki photo albums? Could I get a fellow Fotki friend to add them to their site? At least until they die too?

I don’t feel very concerned about my social media stuff – Twitter, Friendfeed, Facebook, etc. To be honest, provided I’m not suddenly run down by a bus, I think I would just cancel all those accounts before I died. There is no real point to them if I am no longer around to keep them going.

But what if I am suddenly run down and killed by a bus? Well, I have already given all my passwords to a friend, who can edit and cancel things as they see fit. I’m more concerned about saving some of the positive stuff I’ve done and that the photos and articles stay alive for at least a while. I’m not really bothered about trolls and whatnot “defacing my memory”. I reckon they’d be seen for what they are anyhow.

And lest anyone think this is a foolish thing to concern oneself about in the face of DEATH … well, I have pretty much been azahar (az to my friends) since I first joined h2g2 back in February 2003. I actually think of this as being my real name when I am online. Which is a LOT of the time. So of course it is something I would think about. Much more than what will happen to my belongings. I have already taken care of what will happen to my cats (as far as I can take care of such things). So I guess to me, azahar is not only my online persona and a part of me – she is often the best part of me. And so this blog and my photos … those I would like to think of as carrying on. The rest? Meh.

How about you? Have you given any thought about protecting or conserving your online persona after you die?


The title for this post comes from one of my favourite songs back from when I was far too young to know how  any of this would actually feel … And When I Die, written by Laura Nyro and performed by David Clayton Thomas (Blood, Sweat & Tears). You can see a live version below. Such great lyrics, Laura!

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