A new short documentary funded by TELUS Optik Local is exploring what happens to social media accounts when their users die – and how to achieve digital immortality.
Death In The Cloud looks at how you can – or can’t – deal with your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Paypal and other accounts after your loved ones pass away.
“When you’re named as an executor of an estate these days, there’s a lot of challenges you’re going to face,” says lawyer Ryan Howe.
“If we don’t have direct control and access to those assets online, then how do we provide for the next generation to get access to that?…That’ll be the tragedy of our generation.”
It’s not only your relative’s photographs, posts and memories that you might have trouble managing after they die. It’s also their online cash.
According to the documentary, there could be $5 billion of unclaimed assets sitting in the “cloud” accounts of people who have died – and that’s just in Canada alone.
Digital media expert Tristan Jutras says Facebook is also a huge problem; there are more than 1.5 billion people on Facebook, but 30 million of them are already dead. Many of us have parents and relatives on Facebook – and the social media giant keeps the rights to use everything they’ve ever posted, even after they die.
Overall, Jutras says, it might be a good idea for them to print out a list of accounts, usernames and passwords to include in their will.
“It turns out that perhaps one of the best methods to manage all this digital identity that we have is to rely on methods that we’ve been using for years and years and actually use paper.”
UBC’s Rochelle Grayson says it’s not only about making sure those left behind can access your accounts – it’s also about whether you want them to see what’s in your accounts.
“How do I want to be remembered? What impact do I want to leave for future generations?” says Grayson.
“That speaks to where you want people to know what you’ve done – and even where you don’t want them to know what you have in your past.”
“So when you leave, you have crafted that final image that people have of you.”
You can watch the full 11-minute film Death In The Cloud above, and get more info on TELUS Optik Local film funding project here.