I am dead.:-)
Have you ever thought about what would happen to your Facebook page after you die? While researching about algorithms used by Facebook, I came across an app “If I Die”. This app enables the user to upload a post or video that will be published post mortem. The death has to be confirmed by 3 trustee friends named by the user when he uploads this message.
Before Mr. M and I left Germany on our Round-the-world trip, we wrote a last will for the first time in our lives. Before we decided to go on this trip, we did not see the need to prepare for death. We felt safe in the cocoon of our youthful existence. But breaking out of the safety of daily routine, we were forced to face the fact that we could die at any time. Therefore we reflected about whom we could entrust with our limited possessions. During my research on the formalities surrounding legal last wills, I found out that James Dean died without a last will. As a result, his father inherited all of his wealth. I heard that he did not have a good relationship with his father and would not have wanted him to profit from his death. Our death is as certain as the fact that we need oxygen to live. Ultimately we all have to die sooner or later.
If you think about it, the idea for this app is not revolutionary or even new. They are simply making use of social media to publish the final message to a larger audience. The mediums used by If I Die, like video and text, have been around for a long time. Furthermore for centuries men and women have spoken after their death through the trustees of their testaments or last wills. I remember watching a comedy (I have forgotten the title) about a rich man, who made a video testament and shattered the inheritance dreams of his relatives. If it is possible to proof that the user shot the video willingly, I imagine that a posting via “If I Die” is legally binding.
Given the important role social media plays in modern times, it looks like a logical evolution of an age old practice of saying a final goodbye. Imagine being able to stand out even after one’s death by posting some really cool. I am sure that especially the younger generation would find this idea really appealing. I wonder how often one can update their final message? After all, what is a secret today might not still be a secret the day after tomorrow. 🙂 Depending on the content of the message, it might be necessary to update it at regular intervals.
Then I was reminded of the suicide of a neighbour last year. He was only 16 years old. After his death, there were many posts on his profile page asking “Why?” and “I will miss you”. After some time, his brother posted asking the others to stop writing such posts because his brother was never going to read these comments. Eventually his profile page was used to spread the information of when the funeral will be held and that the time his classmates were meeting before going to the funeral home.
If someone posts a message via If I Die, would it be comforting for those still living to see or read something from this person for one last time? There is a scene in the movie Brothers, where Grace keeps listening to the recording of her husband’s voice on his answering machine announcement, after he was pronounced dead. I cried buckets watching that scene. I could empathise with her and her vain attempt to gain comfort from the sound of his voice. For those belonging to the close friends and family of the dead person, such a last message might not be really comforting. In fact depending on the message, it might even increase their pain and sense of loss.
Would it help the living create a last memory of the dead person? I remember an episode on How I met your mother when Marshall’s dad passes away. Marshall then sees that he has a voice message from his dad on his mobile phone. The episode is basically about his father’s last words to him and the realisation that it doesn’t matter what his father has spoken on the voice mail. The important thing was that his father expressed his love to Marshall often; while he was still alive. Therefore my answer to that question would be it depends. Again to the people belonging to the inner circle, it would probably not matter. For mere acquaintances on Facebook, it might be helpful.
What other purpose could a final message via Facebook serve? I can think of one. Many people have hundreds of friends on Facebook, who only connect online. For these people, a last message would spread the information that the profile owner is dead. How else are they to learn about the death, without someone informing them via Facebook? Who better to do it then the owner of the profile themselves? After all, the close family and friends are probably busy mourning.
Would I use this app? At this point in time, I would have to reply with a negative. I have no secrets or vendettas I want to air after my death. Furthermore I tell those I care about that I love them, while I am still alive. I do not see the need to do it after my death.
Are you interested in or already using this app? What were the motivating factors for you to do it?